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How the Stroud Water Research Center educates students and the public about watershed health
Water

How the Stroud Water Research Center educates students and the public about watershed health

Stroud Water Research Center celebrates freshwater every day. For World Water Day, it welcomed visitors to showcase its programs.

From creeks to classrooms, backyards to browsers, and everything in between, Stroud Water Research Center has pioneered freshwater research, education, and watershed restoration since 1967.

Guests walked through a day in the life of Stroud’s team of scientists, researchers, educators, and volunteers during a World Water Day event on March 22. On-site and off-site school and scout programs, professional development workshops, and community and family programs are just some of the ways that Stroud teaches “K through gray” about watershed stewardship.

A Freshwater Feedback Loop

The three aspects of the Stroud Center’s work provide a valuable “research to action” feedback loop. As Nicole Wickenhauser, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Institutional Advancement explains, they investigate how climate change, pollution, and other threats impact our streams and rivers – and how to protect them.

“We translate what we learn into meaningful watershed education so that communities are empowered to make informed decisions about their water resource,” said Wickenhauser.

Stroud Water Center

Many of Stroud’s activities were displayed during the free community event. Citizen scientists listened to creekside stories, literally and virtually walked through watersheds, toured outdoor classrooms, and took the Watershed Education Mobile Lab “for a spin.”

“At the electrofishing station, you could see how we collect fish for monitoring; inside our Watershed Education Mobile Lab, you could explore leaf litter, mayflies, and other things that make fish happy and streams health,” said Wickenhauser.

Since Stroud was just awarded 3 million in grants to plant trees and restore watershed buffers – guests also planted trees along the White Clay Creek. Downstream, educators pointed out signs of a healthy creek – macroinvertebrates, plant life, and certain fish species – from samples pulled from their backyard.

Watershed 101 on Wheels

kids learning at Stroud Water Center

If a school or community group can’t travel to Stroud’s 1,800-acre living laboratory in bucolic Chester County, the education team brings their 14-foot trailer to the students. Since the lab rolled out last WWD, they’ve taught 1,800 students across 3,100 miles in four states.

Whether they were working high schoolers in the Shenandoah Valley or Seneca Nation campers in upstate NY last summer, Stroud’s team used various tools- water chemistry kits, fishing rods, canoes, microscopes, and aquatic and plant life from nearby streams.

“For me, it’s about the heart connection. We teach them to learn how to see and then see to learn,” said Tara Muenz.

Environmental Justice and Literacy for All

Stroud is putting its education research into action by helping schools create outdoor learning spaces on their campuses.

During the 2022-2023 school year, Stroud piloted two programs to grow outdoor spaces, clubs, and regional programs. Since August, a cohort of eight School District of Philadelphia teachers have learned how to use new or existing outdoor clubs to engage students in culturally responsive, interactive, and place-based environmental education.

Stroud also offers a sea of Virtual Learning Resources (also available in Spanish), including the WikiWatershed. These tech tools support scientists, teachers, students, citizens, and legislators in collaborative learning and watershed stewardship.

Be the Change You Wish To See in the World

The 2023 World Water Day theme is ‘accelerating change to solve the water and sanitation crisis’. It highlights an ancient story, where a hummingbird carries drops of water to put out a great fire. While other animals stood and stared, she was doing everything she could.

So, what can we learn from this story? In the busy animal kingdom, be a hummingbird like Stroud Water Research Center.

Photos by David Hucker.


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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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