Last fall, I was able to take the first ever Master Watershed Steward class for Philadelphia County! It was a unique experience as the course needed to move online like so much else during the pandemic. Still, the organizers at Penn State Extension were able to create a really engaging experience.
Watershed Stewards can do a lot of things, such as lead cleanups, conduct water sampling, and organize and lead educational workshops.
TTF’s Executive Director, Julie Slavet and Philadelphia Community Watershed Leader, Doryan DeAngel participated in the Montgomery County MWS course in 2014. TTF team members have also presented at MWS sessions over the years, and TTF has covered the cost for Streamkeepers to participate. MWS has been a valuable partner and source of volunteers for TTF projects.
Normally, the class is held in person but was held online in the fall due to Covid-19. A two hour Zoom call can be a lot, but the classes were broken up into sections with a break, and we even had regular breakout groups for “mingling” built into the schedule. Each week focused on a different topic with presentations from people who work in those areas.
The course started right at the basics with the first class explaining, what is a watershed? and other essentials of water and water laws in Pennsylvania. Over the next several weeks, we learned about topics such as land use and its’ impact on water quality, drinking water, green infrastructure, and native vs invasive plants. I was a bit nervous before the course started because I’m not a scientist (I did terrible in high school chemistry!) and was worried it would be too technical for me. Thankfully this wasn’t the case, the material is easy to read and the instructors really break everything down in an accessible way.
The downside of the class was that there are normally field trips built into the schedule. For example, the lesson on water quality would have meant a field trip to a Philadelphia Water Department facility. The instructors told us we’ll be able to go on these visits in the future though! Overall, it was a really informative and engaging experience. During this time of social distancing, it was nice to connect every week with others with a shared interest in our local environment.
The Master Watershed Steward program is specific to counties and we’re really glad to see that the Philadelphia Water Department is making this program possible. We might not think about it living in an urban environment, but the city very much impacts our watershed and we can definitely use more master stewards working to protect it!
Contact me at Susan@ttfwatershed.org to learn more.