Two students hold tree saplingThe Caroline High School Science Department, under the leadership of Robin Didlake, partnered with Friends of the Rappahannock (FOR) and NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) in 2018 to conduct Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience (MWEE) for all 9th grade science students.  Educators from FOR were instrumental in the cross over from Earth Science to Environmental Science for 9th grade students and teachers, and they continue to provide professional development, field trips, field work opportunities, stewardship projects, STEM activities, guest speakers, volunteer opportunities, and a grant to purchase new science equipment for CHS students and teachers.  Robin Didlake stated, “The FOR staff have become our colleagues for environmental education at Caroline High School.  They are an instrumental addition to our team, and our students benefit from their expertise and knowledge of local environmental policy, issues, and solutions.”

Last fall, Friends of the Rappahannock (FOR) planned to donate 25 trees to be planted at Caroline High School in late March.  Before this came to fruition, the plan was suspended due to COVID-19 related cancellations.  In addition, FOR realized it would have surplus tree saplings due to the COVID impact.  Bryan Hofmann, Deputy Director of FOR, reached out to Linda Millsaps, the Executive Director at the George Washington Regional Commission (GWRC) about this dilemma.  Ms. Millsaps contacted officials in Caroline County and other municipalities to see if they were interested in distributing these free saplings.  Caroline County Public Schools jumped at the chance to distribute 400 saplings to its families, doing so during  COVID-related food distribution at four of its schools.  

On Monday, May 4, CCPS cafeteria staff provided free saplings to interested families who picked up food at Bowling Green, Madison, and Lewis and Clark Elementary Schools as well as Caroline Middle School. Funding for the trees was provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF).

This free tree distribution builds on existing programs and partnerships FOR has with Caroline High School, and it is an innovative way to continue working with students and their families on being good environmental stewards.  So there is one silver lining in the interruptions caused by COVID-19, as the partnership between FOR and CHS allowed Caroline families to plant 400 trees instead of the original 25.  

FOR looks forward to continuing its educational programming with Caroline High School students and staff.  “Working together with the George Washington Regional Commission (GWRC), FOR has distributed over 1,000 trees in planning district 16 this spring to protect water quality in the Rappahannock River,” Said Brent Hunsinger, River Steward for Caroline, King George, and Spotsylvania Counties with Friends of the Rappahannock.  “This adds to the 5,000 trees planted in PD16 through cost-share programs managed by Tri County City and Hanover-Caroline Soil and Water Conservation Districts.”