Ask any teacher and they’ll tell you: their work day doesn’t end when the dismissal bell rings. That’s certainly the case with the amazing educators in our watershed!
Last week, 15 educators from the Cheltenham School District, Abington Friends School (AFS), Temple and LaSalle Universities, Briar Bush Nature Center, and Jenkintown Environmental Advisory Committee joined us to learn some new tools for incorporating watershed education into their curriculum and activities at AFS. We developed this workshop in response to requests from teachers in our upstream watershed communities for more resources and information.
Rosanne Mistretta, AFS Lower School Science teacher and TTF board member, welcomed us, noting that their school has been able to incorprate even more valuable hands-on education due to the riparian buffer planting completed along the headwaters of the Jenkintown Creek on the campus this fall. This summer and into the fall, TTF will work with AFS to install a rain garden to manage runoff from the Lower School parking lot prior to it reaching the creek.
Teachers introduced themselves and shared their specific interests in watershed education. The seven teachers from AFS Upper and Lower Schools expressed their interest in develop some new lesson plans that get their students actively engaged in science, learning about runoff pollution through chemistry, biology and STEM-based learning.
The Fairmount Water Works (FWW), a national leader in watershed education (and our partner) provided teachers with packets of watershed activities and curriculum. FWW’s Rachel Odoroff provided an overview of FWW’s Understanding the Urban Watershed curriculum. As a former Philadelphia School District teacher, Rachel was active in the Philadelphia Water Department’s Green Schools program.
Rachel led us in building topographic landscapes with play-doh, while we discussed various classroom watershed models. The models demonstrated the ability of plants and the natural environment to clean water, the fundamental idea behind green stormwater infrastructure and riparian buffers.
“Our projects are even more successful when there is an educational component,” TTF Executive Director Julie Slavet, said as she thanked the teachers for helping TTF carry out our mission of watershed education and improvement. “Fifteen educators providing watershed education has a profound impact. You will pass along this knowledge to hundreds of young people in the TTF watershed.”
Community Watershed Specialist Alex Cooper provided an overview of student opportunities through our Storm Drain Marking, Mussel Surveying, and Water Monitoring Programs. He also referred teachers to Resources for teachers on our website here.
The teachers present were engaged and enthusiastic — we are so excited to connect with some new watershed ambassadors! Dennis Cunningham, a LaSalle University Professor, shared, “I’m always looking for new study sites for my Field Environmental Science course.” “My wife and I provide environmental programs for Philadelphia students, and we’ll be doing some programs in North Philadelphia,” said John Winter, an AFS teacher who also does science-based education with Philadelphia students in his spare time.
As the workshop ended, teachers swapped information and resources on their favorite watershed activities. The group unanimously agreed that the workshop helped bring certain lessons “to life” to share their students. With passionate teachers like these, the future of the TTF creek looks bright. Our watershed educators can expect more teacher workshops like these in the future!