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Eco-Innovations: How toolkits helped local schools understand their local watersheds.
Water

Eco-Innovations: How toolkits helped local schools understand their local watersheds.

The longstanding urban watershed program continues to take shape even in face of COVID-19 pandemic

In an effort to not allow its award-winning urban watershed curriculum to fall short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, generous funding and the work of dozens of volunteers allowed the folks at Fairmount Water Works to box up their programming – literally – and ship it to teachers and students across the School District of Philadelphia. 

The initiative, appropriately called “Think Outside the Box,” provided over 800 hands-on kits that students throughout 10 Philadelphia schools will use in its continued education of how vital the region’s green infrastructure is and how much the watershed fits into all of it. The kits were designed to help teachers effectively shift to remote learning and “eliminates barriers to learn about [the watershed from] home for both teacher and student,” according to Ellen Freedman Schultz, director of education partnerships at Fairmount Water Works. 

Primary funding for the project came from the American Water Charitable Foundation, which according to its website has invested over $5.5 million in charitable gifts to organizations and initiatives like this one since 2012. Additionally, the School District of Philadelphia matched funds, and dozens of volunteers from Haverford, Pennsylvania-based service learning nonprofit IMPACT assembled the kits which were distributed to both elementary and middle school teachers. 

The 10 district schools that received boxes for distribution were: 

  • Eliza B. Kirkbride School 
  • Southwark School 
  • C.C.A. Baldi Middle School 
  • Ben Franklin Elementary School
  • Charles W. Henry School
  • Warren G. Harding Middle School
  • Andrew Jackson School 
  • Feltonville Arts and Sciences
  • Science Leadership Academy Middle School (SLAMS) 
  • Laura W. Waring Public School

Created in 2014, the Fairmount Water Works’ Understanding the Urban Watershed curriculum was created to highlight the importance of the watershed in addition to getting students to understand the issues that can affect water quality, the infrastructure that supports it and how to protect resources – looking at it all through the lens of an urban environment, like Philadelphia. This initiative is a mainstay of the organization which for over 200 years has acted as an educational resource for those to “understand our city’s connection to the water,” according to the website.  


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Kerith Gabriel started out as a sports writer over a decade ago for the Philadelphia Daily News. He left sports to focus on issues that deeply affect Philadelphians but really, he just loves telling a good story, regardless of genre. When he’s not prowling for a story, you can most likely find him playing soccer at Penn Park, or doing the dad thing around town. Email him at kerith.a.gabriel@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter via @sprtswtr. View all posts by Kerith Gabriel

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