Once a month the Joppatowne High Nature Club treks out to a creek a half-mile from the school in the belief that on its muddy bank they can learn how they and others can stem the tide of pollution locally.
As they head for the creek, the Foster Branch -- which eventually empties into Chesapeake Bay -- they lug kits filled with small jars, test tubes, nets and charts. Once at water's edge, they go to work, gathering samples to later test for pollutants.
As members of the school's Nature Club, the students see their work as taking their concern for the environment beyond purely academic discussion and forging it into action within their community.
"This world is not going to be perfect," says Heather Utz, a junior who has been in the club for three years. "But we want to do our share to help be a better planet."
The volunteer club of about 70 members also has organized trash recycling programs, cleaned up streams, planted trees, built nature trails, and tracked bird migration to learn more about the state of the local environment.
They share their information with fellow students and citizens in the community.
David Ziolkowski, a senior who serves as the club's president, says he convinced his family to start sorting trash at home for recycling. "It just rubs off on you."
The volunteers' main project is monitoring water quality of the Foster Branch, which flows through Robert Copenhaver Park and then to the Gunpowder River and Chesapeake Bay.
Senior Scott Fitzgerald said he expects to maintain his interest in the environment after he graduates and goes to college.
"If you're involved in something like this in high school, you don't lose it," Scott said. "It sets a good example for anybody."