By Geoffrey Selling, TTF Volunteer
TTF hosted a workshop for schoolteachers at Cheltenham Elementary School, entitled Get Your Feet Wet: Understanding the Urban Watershed, on February 25. This program was in response to requests from teachers for more information about watershed education and how they might get involved in water stewardship themselves, as well as with their classes. This workshop also provided resources for Earth Day projects.
The workshop was held in the school’s sunny library and supported by school staff. Community Watershed Specialist Alex Cooper organized the workshop. However, a power outage gave the workshop limited emergency lighting and no AV access. Staff, guests and participants cheerfully worked around the power problem and the workshop went off without a hitch.
We began with a warm welcome from Principal Perez, who not only made everyone comfortable with his greeting, but shared some of the school’s work on this topic. It was refreshing to have a principal who was knowledgeable about watersheds and whose school already maintains rain gardens and green roofs.
Executive Director Julie Slavet then provided an introduction to TTF and its work. Her emphasis on the partnership aspect of TTF was very important. As she pointed out, TTF cannot do all the work alone, but allied with community partners and resources, a great deal can be (and has been!) done. The teachers were encouraged to see themselves as partners in this work.
TTF volunteer Geoffrey Selling gave an overview of the Streamkeeper program, emphasizing how the observations and data collected by Streamkeepers help to create a current and accurate picture of the conditions in this watershed. Geoffrey also pointed out that the Streamkeepers are the ‘eyes and ears” of the watershed, making timely observations when there have been spills, illegal dumping or other unfortunate events.
TTF invited a number of representatives from the wider water and watershed community to give presentations about their groups and the resources they can provide to teachers. These included National Wildlife Federation, the Nature Conservancy, Rails-to-Trails, the Fairmount Water Works, Briar Bush Nature Center and Wyncote Audubon Society. Each of these organizations set up a table with pictures, handouts, brochures and other information. The presentations, though brief, were wonderfully enthusiastic and reflected the passion and commitment of the various presenters and their organizations. Listening to this incredible menu of opportunities and resources was both exciting and encouraging. The teachers quickly realized that there is already a lot of material and many possibilities out there, ready for them to adopt, adapt and use.
Following these presentations, the group broke into two smaller groups (divided into teachers of older and younger students) under the guidance of the two educators from the Fairmount Water Works. They began by giving the participants Understanding the Urban Watershed: A Regional Curriculum Guide for the Classroom, created by the Water Works, that included background information and lesson plans for important water topics: the water cycle and the “human-use water cycle,” drinking water and waste water treatment, storm water management and green water infrastructure. The groups discussed ways to use this resource and teachers had the chance to share projects, curriculum and programs they are already involved in.
As the workshop wound up, many of the teachers stayed to visit the presenter tables and talk to staff from TTF and the outside organizations. The buzz in the room was very positive and it was clear that this group of teachers had new ideas and resources to make use of in their programs.
You can find all of these resources here. Contact Alex Cooper for more information: or 215.744.1853.