Schuylkill Acts and Impacts: An expedition to inspire watershed action

On June 7, ten high school students from communities throughout the headwaters of the Schuylkill River to its terminus in Philadelphia will embark on a weeklong expedition throughout the 2,000-square-mile Schuylkill River watershed.

This intensive, applied service-learning program, Schuylkill Acts & Impacts: An Expedition to Inspire Watershed Action, is being piloted by the Schuylkill Headwaters Association located in Pottsville, PA in collaboration with Outward Bound Philadelphia and over 25 partners and sponsoring organizations from throughout the watershed.

Student participants representing the five counties (Schuylkill, Berks, Montgomery, Chester, and Philadelphia) located within the Schuylkill River watershed will travel by canoe, van, and foot along the 120-mile Schuylkill River from its source in the anthracite coal lands of Schuylkill County to its confluence with the Delaware River in Philadelphia.

For eight days and seven nights, participants will sleep under the stars and learn in a classroom without walls. Each night, participants will camp or stay in basic accommodations at various parks and preserves. Team leaders from the Schuylkill Headwaters Association and Outward Bound Philadelphia will guide students downriver, illustrating an array of issues impacting water quality in the Schuylkill River through guided tours, programming, and applied service work designed to highlight issues in the watershed, encourage critical thinking and problem solving skills, and offer hands-on solutions to these problems.

Target issues include: 1) the legacy of coal mining on water quality; 2) agricultural impacts including erosion and manure management; 3) the role of land preservation in watershed health; and 4) the impacts of stormwater and impervious services on water resources. For example, students will paddle stretches of the river with biologists and conduct basic water quality monitoring, tour abandoned and active coal mines, visit farms to examine stream bank erosion, and walk the streets of Philadelphia to witness pioneering work at mitigating stormwater. Daily reflection will challenge participants to consider their own use of water and provide them with tools to take action in their own stretch of the watershed.

A Toyota TogetherGreen Fellowship awarded by the National Audubon Society was used to leverage support —both financial and in-kind—from more than 25 organizations, agencies and businesses within the Schuylkill River Watershed to make Schuylkill Acts and Impacts’ inaugural year possible.

For more information, a complete schedule, or to join the expedition please contact Sierra Gladfelter, Schuylkill Headwaters Association at 570-573-2093 or email outreach@schuylkillheadwaters.org.

From the Schuylkill Headwaters Association