Engaging Students to Improve Environmental and Outdoor Education

The Urban Waters Federal Partnership, a 13-agency initiative, aims to stimulate local economies, create jobs, improve quality of life, and protect health by revitalizing urban waterways and the communities around them, focusing on under-served urban communities.

Currently, the partnership has 18 locations across the nation. These locations have or will build partnerships among local, state and federal stakeholders – as well as schools. Here is just a sampling of how students are getting in on the Urban Waters action:

Anacostia StudentsAt Bladensburg Waterfront Park in Bladensburg, Md., the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Urban Waters team assists Neval Thomas Elementary school students, parents and teachers as they paddle along the Anacostia River during the Wilderness Inquiry Canoemobile on October 22, 2013.

During the visit, the students had an outdoor education experience learning about canoeing, stormwater pollution and nesting bird species. The Wilderness Inquiry Canoemobile spent the entire week in DC and explored the Anacostia River with approximately 500 of the area’s public school students.

To view upcoming Wilderness Inquiry opportunities and events across the country, view their website: http://www.wildernessinquiry.org/

In the New Orleans region, students and teachers have an opportunity to explore and learn about southeastern Louisiana’s coastal wetlands at the University of New Orleans Shea Penland Coastal Education and Research Facility (CERF).

NOLA studentsThese K-12 grade students engage in hands-on experience in the basic estuarine processes, coastal environmental science, and coastal restoration with a focus on the values of the wetlands and the issues that face them through field trips and workshops. In addition, the students meet and learn from the professionals at Louisiana’s State and Federal agencies and local partner organizations that protect coastal wetlands. For more information on CERF, visit their website at http://pies.uno.edu/education/cerf_coastal_education_and_research_facility_louisiana.htm

Resources are also available to teachers, parents and others, including data on water quality and health aspects of the wetlands through another partner; the Coastal Wetlands, Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act program. View curricula and other activities, including an interactive educational and entertaining CD on Louisiana wetlands here. To learn more about how these partners and CERF engage local public schools and their students, view this YouTube video.

Denver StudentsAlong the South Platte River in Denver, Colo., the Greenway Foundation motivates young public school students to engage the outdoors through environmental education programs. The Greenway River Ranger Internship Program introduces high school students to natural resource careers through environmental education training, hands-on teaching experiences with elementary students, job-readiness workshops and outdoor learning such as water quality sampling at Denver public parks along the South Platte River and its tributaries. The program aims to inspire the next generation of environmental leaders equipped with the knowledge, skills and motivation to become stewards and informed decision makers.

The Greenway Foundation has been connecting tens of thousands of Denver youth and their families to urban waterways through school based field trips, summer camps and community events through its education arm, South Platte River Environmental Education (SPREE). For more information and videos, visit their website.

Through the Urban Waters Federal Partnership and the 18 local partnerships, federal agencies are engaging America’s students in order to improve environmental and outdoor education in urban communities, allowing students to reconnect to our nation’s treasured rivers and lakes.

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