By Harry Campbell, PA Executive Director, Chesapeake Bay Foundation
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation believes that clean water is a legacy worth leaving future generations and is teaching today’s young people how they can be good stewards of Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams tomorrow.
With her two sisters, Rose Drumm hopes to one day inherit Broken Arrow Ranch, her family’s 54-acre beef farm in southern Lancaster County.
Rose spent a day learning about water quality and planting seedlings in order to help restore a streamside buffer on an Amish Farm in Lancaster County as part of CBF Pennsylvania’s new Mentors in Agricultural Conservation (MAC) job-shadowing program.
CBF education programs in Pennsylvania encourage students throughout the Susquehanna River watershed to learn outside, to get their hands in the dirt and feet in the water.
York County schools participate in CBF education programs every year. (Photo: Eastern York High School students learn outside during one of CBF’s Susquehanna Watershed Education Program canoe trips on Muddy Run.)
MAC is part of CBF Pennsylvania’s Student Leadership Program and pairs Future Farmers of America (FFA) and 4H students with CBF restoration specialists like Ashley Spotts, who kept the seedling and planting advice flowing to Rose Drumm.
In additional to restoration work, students learn from farmers first-hand about conservation projects on their farms. About 25 students were in MAC in 2016, its first year.
Roughly 19,000 miles of Pennsylvania rivers and streams are damaged by nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment runoff. As agriculture is the leading source of that pollution, it is essential that future generations of farmers have the resources and know-how to restore and protect Commonwealth waterways.
The MAC program wraps up with a trip to the Chesapeake Bay, where students study how farmland is part of the bay watershed. It left a lasting impression on Rose Drumm.
“It opened my eyes to what I can do at home to help a few hundred miles away and how water quality affects the animals at my house and on my farm,” she says. “I wanted to come home and see if I could find a program for us to get our cattle out of the stream and possibly put in a water system, so they wouldn’t be in the stream.”
CBF’s efforts to prepare young people so they can continue the work of cleaning up our waterways extends beyond the field of agriculture.
The Student Leadership Program in Pennsylvania, also in its first year, gives a voice to high school students, focuses on team building, and teaches the method and value of taking action to improve water quality in their local communities. Students plan and coordinate advocacy and restoration activities.
Last school year, they met with Sen. Robert Casey Jr.
In addition to the MAC and Student Leadership programs, CBF’s Susquehanna Watershed Education Program in Pennsylvania has been a source of hands-on learning in the spring and fall, for over 25 years.
In the 2015-16 school year, SWEP coordinated with about 40 regional groups and on 85 trips and put students in grades 6 through 12 onto the water so they would learn more about the health of local waterways.
SWEP provides field experiences that help students build a critical connection to the natural world in which they live, in the hopes it will motivate their decision-making toward improving water quality as they develop into citizens and future leaders in Pennsylvania.
SWEP students paddle on local rivers and streams and investigate the health of the water through hands-on activities like up-close studies of the bugs and other species living in the water.
They also study the physical characteristics of the waterway, shoreline and adjoining lands, using water chemistry tests to determine water quality, and using maps to get to know their specific watershed.
Be it through MAC, Student Leadership, or SWEP, CBF is helping students chart a course for cleaner water.
To learn more about CBF education programs in Pennsylvania, send email to Lane Whigham at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or to Tom Parke at: email@example.com or visit the CBF Apply For An Education Program webpage for students and teachers.
For more on Chesapeake Bay-related issues in Pennsylvania, visit the CBF-PA webpage. Click Here to sign up for Pennsylvania updates (bottom of left column). Click Here for a copy of CBF-PA’s most recent newsletter.
NewsClip:Op-Ed: Charting A Course For Clean Water, Harry Campbell, CBF-PA