Understanding the Urban Watershed: TTF & FWW Connect the Classroom to the Schoolyard

Julie Slavet
Mar 4, 2014

We know that our teachers have a full plate in addition to teaching — grading papers, supporting parents, developing curriculum, and of course, making up for snow days. The 9 to 5 (or most likely the 7 to 5) would be strenuous enough for most people.

Fortunately, our educators are driven by a passion for learning that goes beyond the routine. More and more of our creative educators are including watershed activities as tools to teach science, math and art. We teamed up with the Fairmount Water Works (FWW) to provide Understanding the Urban Watershed: Making the Classroom to Schoolyard Connection for the amazing teachers in our watershed.

FWW Teacher Workshop

Last Thursday, classroom teachers and outdoor educators gathered at the FWW to learn about TTF projects and the FWW curriculum.  High school science instructors, nature center educators, urban garden gurus, and others from Philadelphia, Montgomery County and beyond began the workshop with a tour of this incredible interpretive center and a lesson on the history of water resources in Philadelphia. FWW’s Ellen Schultz explained the way that centuries of development have shaped our urban watershed, and helped us visualize a watershed while standing in a dense urban setting.

The FWW isn’t new to these idea —  the center have been providing watershed education for over a decade. What is new is their comprehensive curriculum with successfully demonstrated water education activities, which supports the Philadelphia Water Department’s Green Schools program.

The city’s Green City, Clean Waters program connects to a crucial element missing in many Philadelphia schools: opportunities to learn outside of the classroom. Now, if a school has a setting for outdoor learning, there are curriculum resources. With TTF, students have an opportunity to carry the learning outdoors with storm drain marking, mussel surveying and activities at our buffers and rain gardens.

FWW Teacher Workshop

After the tour and an overview of watershed education, attendees chatted over a light dinner. TTF Community Engagement Coordinator Alex Cooper introduced educators to events and learning opportunities with TTF, and Ellen Schultz gave an overview of their curriculum.  The intrigued audience watched as Ellen used a streetscape model to show how green infrastructure captures stormwater from city streets. Educators from the Franklin Institute, Tyler Arboretum, and Frankford Friends School discussed how they would use FWW curriculum activities in their classrooms.

“With Spring coming, we are starting to develop our outdoor curriculum, so we look for resources like these,” said Karen Bustard from the Urban Tree Connection.  Other educators seemed equally eager to get out of the classroom, but acknowledged that it’s not always an option. “Unfortunately, getting a bus is an expense our schools can’t always support,” one teacher commented. Learning how to be creative with classroom resources and finding neighboring outdoor spaces is a challenge.

FWW Teacher Workshop

Teachers left the workshop with valuable resources and a positive spirit that comes from being surrounded by like-minded educators.  As the educators headed home, they took with them new skills and resources to incorporate stormwater as a creative, fun and intellectual project into their students’ experiences.

Interested in future workshops or outdoor activities this spring? Contact Alex Cooper at 215-744-1853/cooper@ttfwatershed.org for more information on the workshop and upcoming activities for educators and students.

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