Thursday, March 24, 2022

DEP Promotes Environmental Education, Showcases Riverbend Environmental Education Center In Montgomery County

On March 24, Department of Environmental Protection Southeast Regional Director Pat Patterson visited the
Riverbend Environmental Education Center in Gladwyne, Montgomery County to showcase its Aquaponics program, recently enhanced with the help of a $20,000 DEP Environmental Education Grant.

The DEP Environmental Education Grants Program supports formal and nonformal programs for youth and adults statewide, with priority given to programs on Environmental Justice, climate change, and water-quality improvement.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re school-age or retirement-age, pursuing environmental education is a lifelong journey,” said Regional Director Patterson. “As the world’s climate changes, we must continue to grow, learn and adapt.”

Riverbend’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Aquaponics program provides students with high quality, inquiry-based science lessons in aquaculture and hydroponics, the science of growing fish and plants together in a single integrated, soilless system. 

The program has been honored with a Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence in 2020.  [Read more here.]

Despite being closed to visitors due to COVID-19 restrictions, Riverbend was able to use their grant funds to adapt their lesson and engage directly in the classrooms. 

By purchasing smaller aquaponic systems and using virtual platforms, Riverbend was able to reach students with minimal curriculum disruption. 

Located in Montgomery County, Riverbend serves southeastern Pennsylvania through a rich array of nature-based STEM education programs. 

Riverbend has created a strong framework for engaging students in learning science and STEM through outdoor experiences, emphasizing partnership-based programming. 

They teach environmental principles through a direct connection with nature, inspiring respect for our natural world and action as aware, responsible and caring citizens. 

Riverbend’s preserve, made up of diverse natural habitats, is located on 30 acres and is open seven days a week for visitors.

“Parenting in the age of climate change is challenging. Riverbend firmly believes that every child and their family has the right to the benefits that nature can provide regardless of their ZIP code,” said Riverbend’s Director of Education and Strategic Initiatives Erin McCool. “All Pennsylvanians will benefit when students graduate with environmental literacy to navigate issues that impact our systems. This will also enable students to build resilient communities in the face of complex environmental challenges like climate change.“

The DEP Environmental Education Grants Program was established by the Environmental Education Act of 1993, which mandates that five percent of all pollution fines and penalties collected annually by DEP be set aside for environmental education. 

Since its inception, this program has provided more than $11.5 million to support environmental education throughout Pennsylvania.

For more on the program, visit DEP’s Environmental Education Grants Program webpage.  The deadline for current year grants was in December and are usually awarded around Earth Day, April 22.  Applications for the next round of EE grants opens in September.

[Posted: March 24, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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