This project is part of Tennessee Environmental Council & Friends of Henry Horton State Park Watershed Education And Action Project 

Tree PlantingSince 2009, we have educated fifth grade students from Marshall County about the biologically diverse Duck River in Henry Horton State Park and worked on projects to protect and improve the river including planting trees and other projects.  The program is a part of a watershed education project sponsored by the Friends of Henry Horton State Park (FHHSP) and the Tennessee Environmental Council (the Council).

In 2012 this program was awarded the Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Award for “Excellence in Environmental Education and Outreach”.  The award was presented to Tennessee Environmental Council and Friends of Henry Horton State Park.

If you know a school or youth group that would like to participate in this program at their school and/or in your community please contact John McFadden with subject line “Watershed Curriculum” at [email protected] 

Past successes include: 


The Council and FOHHSP met with over 300 fifth grade students from 3 local schools to assess the quality of the Duck River, in the Fall of 2016. They observed the habitat, tested the chemical properties, and investigated the macroinvertebrate to make their assessment. In the spring, those students came back to implement a tree planting project. They planted 1000 live stakes(Black Willow, Buttonbush, Spice Bush, Silky Dogwood, and American Elderberry) in the Wetlands of Henry Horton State Park. Eight additional saplings, including two American Sycamores were a also planted near the trail.


85 fifth grade students from Cascade Elementary participated in a variety of water quality assessments including, macroinvertebrate identification, visual habitat assessment, and chemical/physical testing. Students were able to examine their own data to make educated assessments of the water quality of the Duck River.

In March 2013, 125 fifth Grade Students planted native grasses to help stabilize 1,000 linear feet of creek bank. They planted about 900 plugs of native grasses.

In 2012  students planted fourteen  1.5 “ caliper trees in response to finding degraded riparian zones and got two concrete picnic tables moved away from the river!  This initiative was featured on the Tennessee Wild Side program on public television.

On Thursday February 19 2010,  125 fifth grade students and Chapel Hill Elementary School teachers planted 313 native Tulip Poplar and Shumard Oak seedlings. Both trees are native to Tennessee and the Tulip Poplar is Tennessee’s state tree. They planted the trees to help reduce erosion and stabilize the stream bank. Each student and participant also took home a tree to plant. Also attending the event in Henry Horton State Park (HHSP) were Senator Bill Ketron; County Commissioner EW Hill; David Owenby, Director of Public Affairs for Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation; Mike Robertson, State Park Regional Manager; Randy Whitworth (HHSP Superintendant); Stacey Cothran and Teresa Dugger (FHHSP) and John McFadden and Kevin Burke (the Council).

Senator Ketron praised the students, “This is really a good thing you have done. You will be able to come back to the park in 20 years to have a picnic under these trees with your family. You will feel better today at school because of what you have done and from spending time here in the park.”

This event was part of the “Protecting Our Watershed” educational curriculum the students have been working on since the fall. Students began the project in October 2009 with a trip to the park to study the water quality of the Duck River. Students learned about the biology, chemistry and habitat of the river system and learned about the history and benefits of Henry Horton State Park. Students sampled the aquatic insects which allowed them to determine the quality of the water as some insects live only in clean water. Students found mayflies, snails, isopods, and the class favorite – crayfish. Based on the aquatic insects found, the students determined that the river was fairly clean.

Students then followed up with some chemical testing of the water, looking at the water pH and dissolved oxygen. PH and dissolved oxygen are both considered “indicators” of pollution and are commonly used to determine if water quality problems exist. The ranges for pH and dissolved oxygen were acceptable for good water quality.

Finally, students assessed the streamside habitat by looking for the different types of vegetation, trees, bushes and grasses. When a stream side has all three types of vegetation it is considered healthy; without the three types of vegetation the habitat is considered unhealthy. The students noted that some areas along the Duck River did not have the three stream side vegetation types, specifically missing trees and smaller bushes. Students learned that trees are the most important vegetation layers, because they shade the water helping to keep it cool, and also help to reduce stream bank erosion as their roots hold the soil in place.

Once the students had determined that there were issues with the stream side vegetation they participated in a brain storming session, led by the Tennessee Environmental Councils executive director and aquatic biologist John McFadden, to determine what could be done to address the lack of vegetation on the river bank. The students put forth many ideas, including not mowing in the area next to the river, putting up fences to keep people out and planting trees. The idea of planting trees along the river in some of the areas in the park was advanced to park staff, FOHHSP, and the Council; who helped organize the tree planting event on February 19, 2010.

The response to the event was enthusiastic Cindy Gabard 5th grade Chapel Hill Elementary teacher said, “These kids will remember this the rest of their life.” Randy Whitworth (HHSP Superintendant) agreed adding, “This is one of the all time best things that have ever happened in Henry Horton State Park”.


Duck River Opportunities Project engages volunteers in stream bank restoration and other projects to protect the Duck River which was named by National Geographic as one of the four most biologically rich places in the world.

Friends of Henry Horton State Park is a 501c3 charity whose sole purpose is to enhance park offerings at HHSP in Chapel Hill, TN and to educate the public about nature and conservation of our resources. The group was awarded the “2009 Tennessee Sustainability Award” by the Tennessee Environmental Council for their innovative and outstanding lead removal project in Henry Horton State Park in Chapel Hill, TN.

The “Protecting Our Watershed” educational curriculum is a collaboration of Tennessee Environmental Council and Friends of Henry Horton State Park.  It offers students an opportunity to learn the importance of clean water to their community and takes students through a six-step process to evaluate a section of the Duck River in Henry Horton State Park, to identify opportunities to improve the rivers health, choose a specific project designed to address any opportunities or threats, and take concrete steps to address issues to improve the health of the river. This program offers prospects for learning in Science, Math, Social Studies/Civics, English, Computer Studies, and Art.  The program is now in it’s third year and was awarded the Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Award in 2012.