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Canoeing for Water Quality

Water-quality programs in the field reinforce classroom lessons for Pennsylvania kids. Courtesy: Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
Water-quality programs in the field reinforce classroom lessons for Pennsylvania kids. Courtesy: Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
September 15, 2015

HARRISBURG, Pa. - School kids from 10 Pennsylvania counties are getting hands-on learning experiences in water quality. It's the 25th year of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Susquehanna Watershed Education Program.

This year, sixth-through-12th graders from 19 different schools are spending a day paddling canoes on their local waterways. Tom Parke, manager of the program, says for the students, the life they see in the creeks and the activities on the water can be eye-opening experiences.

"Just where their water comes from in their homes and where it goes is often new to them," says Parke. "Teachers often say they can do more in a day with us in the field than a month in the classroom."

The program's fall season began on Sept. 9 and runs through the middle of November.

Students from participating schools are first taught how to paddle a canoe. But as Parke points out, once they're on the water, they make many stops along the way.

"We bring water chemistry equipment out to test the water chemically, and find out day to day how the waterways are faring," he explains. "And we look at the biological component, the life in the waterways, as well."

The students learn about the food chain in rivers and streams, the affects of water quality on aquatic insects and sources of water pollution.

Pennsylvania is second only to Alaska in the number of miles of waterways flowing through the state, making water quality awareness especially important. According to Parke, no one in the state is ever more than a mile from a stream or a river.

"Everybody's connected to their waterways and if we're going to have clean, fishable, swimmable waterways, it really takes everybody to do their part," says Parke.

The Susquehanna Watershed Education Program says its ultimate goal is to motivate future leaders to take action to improve the water in their communities.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA