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Classroom on wheels: How Stroud Water Research Center is changing environmental ed
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Classroom on wheels: How Stroud Water Research Center is changing environmental ed

Chester County’s Stroud Water Research Center is delivering a “Fresh Perspective” on bridging the environmental education equity gap.

After five decades of pioneering freshwater research, education, and water restoration, Stroud Water Research Center is taking its renowned programming on the road. 

During their World Water Day celebration, their Watershed Education Mobile Lab took its maiden voyage on March 24. Stroud is removing educational roadblocks; bringing this living lab and free/low-cost programs to underserved schools and communities.

Photo from Stroud Water Research Center

Sampling the Life of A Scientist

Community members, families, and Mighty Writers spent the evening conducting experiments in front of the bold, blue, 14-foot box trailer. This classroom on wheels is equipped with instructional materials and has a solar roof to power its smart devices, microscopes, projectors, and more. Attendees tested the health of the local White Clay Creek using the same methods as Stroud’s scientific team. They examined macroinvertebrates under microscopes and monitored the water’s chemistry. Other activities included electrofishing demos, showings of freshwater stewardship videos, and Creek Critters readings.

Photo from Stroud Water Research Center

Not a Cookbook Lab

Practicing local-based learning, Stroud educators will take water samples from nearby waterways near the field trip site. They will study which macroinvertebrates – mayflies, caddisflies, dragonflies, crawfish, and leeches – are found in the collected samples. Macroinvertebrates are “indicator species,” because they have varying tolerances of pollution levels. 

Next, they will do a habitat assessment, taking note of run-off, impervious or pervious surfaces nearby, and if trees run along the stream bank. “The exciting thing about this is that I don’t know what the answer is going to be,” explained Steve Kerlin, Ph.D., director of education. “You don’t get just one answer. There’s no correct answer that applies everywhere. It’s really about what’s going on in that local watershed and then, you find your answer.”

Making A Splash in The Education World

Photo by Elizabeth Hedley

Since 1967, the Stroud Water Research Center has pioneered freshwater research, environmental education, and watershed restoration. They offer a sea of educational resources for ages “K through gray” including on-site and off-site school and scout programs, virtual learning tools, professional development workshops, and community and family programs

Like many organizations, the pandemic forced the organization to move to virtual learning or outdoor-only education. In 2021, they grew their education team to 18 members and reached 275,000 direct and indirect program participants.

Photo by Elizabeth Hedley

Cultivating the Next Batch of Environmentalists

Environmental stewardship is needed now more than ever. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, our region has the highest percentage of impaired streams in the state. Philadelphia County has the highest rate of all of the PA counties, with 97 percent of streams in Philadelphia rated as impaired. 

“We are so excited to engage communities that may need to cultivate their relationship with the water. Whether it is trying to get them to have a more reverent relationship with things over here. You know this is my local river, and I care about it. Again, take positive actions for the planet,” said Tara Muenz, assistant director of education.


Want to become a watershed hero? Become a citizen scientist and collect water quality data, request one of their educational programs, learn more about your watershed or explore our watershed directory


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Inspired by her college internship with an ocean advocacy non-profit, Leslie started her career planning stream cleanups and writing about watershed issues. Leslie is an accomplished writer and social media expert. When she isn’t chasing a toddler, you can find her writing, planning events, cooking, reading, hiking, and helping brands tell their stories. View all posts by Leslie Hudson

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