Wissahickon Charter watershed stewards tend to Harmony Garden

Julie Slavet
Dec 1, 2013

We’ve been fostering a generation of watershed stewards through the Urban Waters project, a joint effort among TTF, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS), and GreenTreks Network, made possible through a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In addition to maintenance training, Urban Waters teaches people who live, learn, and work near GSI sites about these features. The Wissahickon Charter School is home to one of these sites — an impressive stormwater basin in its front yard. Named “Harmony Garden”, this basin was created by converting an asphalt playground into infiltration beds with native plants and rain barrels.

The system collects rainwater from a 645,000 square foot roof, a school parking lot and playground. The rainwater is directed towards Harmony Garden where the plants and soils go to work making use of the nutrients from the rainwater runoff. Without the basin, the water would drain directly into the sewer system and cause untreated wastewater to enter the Wissahickon Creek.
Urban Waters Program at the Wissahickon Charter SchoolTTF and PHS worked with an eager group of Wissahickon Charter School 4th graders to learn about their Harmony Garden. Each school grade has a theme for the year, and this year the 4th grade theme is “watersheds”. The students learned about the water cycle, how pollutants enter our waterways, how different types of soil are important to the flow of water, and the different types of plants that live in their garden. Then, the students then went on a scavenger hunt for the different types of invasive plants that may have intruded on their Harmony Garden.

Urban Waters Program at the Wissahickon Charter School

The following week, the students took their knowledge one step further with a visit to Saylor Grove— the first constructed wetland in Philadelphia that captures, stores and treats runoff before it drains into the Monoshone Creek. Students learned about combined and separate sewers through a first-hand demonstration. They imagined themselves as raindrops, flowing down into the wetland where the water is naturally filtered.

Saylor Grove Wetlands

Last spring, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation (PPR) Tree Keepers and PHS Roots to Re-Entry participants learned job skills focused on maintenance of stormwater best management practices (BMPs) or Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI). Read more about this training here.

Empowering students and neighbors with watershed knowledge fulfills TTF’s mission of improving the health and vitality of the TTF watershed by engaging our communities in education, stewardship, restoration, and advocacy. If you’re interested in a watershed lesson, contact Alex Cooper, Community Engagement Coordinator, at cooper@ttfwatershed.org.

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