Children from Bethany Children’s Home got drenched and muddy kayaking the Schuylkill River for an upclose and personal experience of a watershed right in our own backyard.
Introducing youth to the lush environment that surrounds them is a summer project for the Schuylkill River Heritage Area, working with AmeriCorps VISTA’s Appalachian Coal Country Team to introduce students to their outdoors through first-hand encounters.
Bethany Children’s Home, Womelsdorf, teamed with Project Schuylkill Outdoor Leadership Odyssey to bring their children down the Schuylkill River by kayak Tuesday, June 24. The Schuylkill River flows through Berks County and for environmental groups like the Schuylkill River Heritage Area, is a great hands-on learning tool that isn’t utilized enough.
Kayleigh Weaver, Pottstown, summer associate with AmeriCorps under the Appalachian Coal Country Team and Victoria Garrick, Trail Sustainability Coordinator for the Schuylkill River Heritage Area partner with different school districts specifically to get children in touch with nature. “We direct environmentalism immersion and introduce them to environment science,” Garrick said. “They gain an appreciation for the local community...where they might not have done that before.”
“They really opened up and started having fun,” Weaver said.
The project piloted last fall at the ILEAD Charter School in Reading provides them with a chance to connect what they learn to the watershed around them.
Children were encouraged to use what they learned from the morning to make headwaters about the life-cycle of the environment and to gain an appreciation for outdoor adventures.
Being witness to the children embracing their outdoor environment and enjoying the experience is gratifying for the instructors . “The kids got out of their element. Some of them have never done it before a lot wanted to go further,” Dustin Horne, Womelsdorf, of the Adventure Staff said. Horne shares that he personally volunteers to “get kids in touch with nature.”
Doug Chapman, Take It Outdoors Adventures, led the group for their four-mile voyage down the Schuylkill. Chapman, along with Heritage Area Executive Director Kurt Zwikl, prepared the students with an introduction about kayaking procedures and etiquettes prior to the morning’s trek. “It was great seeing them step outside of their comfort zone,” Chapman said. “A couple were afraid at first...it was great to get them out there and overcome that.”
The trip launched at Ganshahawany Park to finish at Riverfront Park in Pottstown.