This is a repost from the Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light (PA IPL) website, written by Tyler Fowler, PA IPL Fellow. Find the original post here.
We are delighted to share this blog, and look forward to the next opportunity to collaborate with PA IPL and our neighbors at Juniata Park Academy!
Jul 3, 2023
On May 24th, PA IPL and the Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership ran a program in the Juniata Park Academy school cafeteria during after school care, addressing watershed protection and environmental justice. The Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership was parked right outside, and arrived in a blue van with local fauna and flora on the sides, equipped with educational materials that taught the attendees about how a watershed functions, and the importance of keeping our watershed clean. We went into our visit with the goal of starting conversations with the local community about the importance of protecting and taking care of the environment we rely on for our health and well-being.
My role in this program as a PA IPL fellow was to facilitate conversations within groups of school children, their families, and some teachers and staff, focused on the attendee’s relationship with their watershed. Watersheds channel water from more landlocked areas, into creeks, streams, rivers, and eventually to reservoirs, bays, and the ocean. Surprisingly, it is not just waterways, such as creeks, that more obviously play a role in the transportation of water that are classified as part of a watershed, but also black tops, roadways, fields, etc. Any geographical location that receives rain and subsequently facilitates runoff can be classified as part of a watershed. To explain this complicated system, I would describe a watershed as a drain; a complex arrangement of drains and pipes that transports water from one place to another. Similar to how we have designed the sewage systems of our cities. This analogy was the best way to give others, especially children, a way to visualize this process that is constantly and cyclically happening right under our feet.
The children were able to connect this new concept to what they have been learning in their elementary science classes; I listened to them as they connected the dots between the water-cycle and watersheds. We also provided the kids with comic strips in which they personified the water as it travels through the watersheds. These drawings were cheery, filled with grinning clouds, and little raindrops being reunited with their raindrop friends at the end of their journey. They depicted healthy watersheds spreading joy and health through communities, reflecting the general attitude of love and appreciation this community has for the water that flows around their home.
As conversation facilitators, we were instructed to avoid assuming our groups were not familiar with the concept of a watershed, but instead ask questions that would inevitably reveal how intimately familiar with watersheds the attendees were, regardless of the level of familiarity with the technical terms. Not only were the attendees receptive to the information we were presenting to them, but they were already familiar with the information we presented to them! Our only job, as facilitators, was to provide them with a place to further explore their relationship with water.
It was incredible to see a community of adults encouraging their children to feel a connection to their environment through the exploration of their own watersheds. This is not only done through education. The attendees already had the groundwork of experiences with water that provided them with an understanding of how intimately connected water is with their daily lives. The Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership has already done amazing work advocating for the protection of their watershed, and in the past PA IPL has been a part of tree planting initiatives within the community. There is passion for environmental conversation already present in this community, and you could feel it in that school cafeteria.
In my time as a PA IPL fellow, most actions I took led me to communities of experienced advocates and activists, ready and willing to take actions towards environmental justice and conservation. This experience highlighted the fact these communities do not lack the passion, desire, or knowledge needed to take action on the environment; it is an absence of resources. Their accomplishments in the face of this deficit is inspiring and I wish both the Juniata community best of luck in their future endeavors, and I hope PA IPL, as well as other environmental justice non-profits, focus more on outreach of this nature in the future.