Youth Education in the Ausable Watershed
As a Science Communications Fellow with Lake Champlain Sea Grant and the Ausable River Association (AsRA), a key component of my position is connecting people of all ages to the watershed. Teaching people about and engaging them with the environment is critically important to both organizations as developing an appreciation for the watershed, especially at a young age, leads them to care about it.
Since beginning my fellowship in May, I have had the opportunity to work on outreach programs across the Ausable Watershed, including a number of youth focused programs.
During my second week on the job, I traveled to Keene Central School with colleagues from Lake Champlain Sea Grant (LCSG), the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum (LCMM), and the Adirondack Watershed Institute (AWI), to teach the Lake Champlain Giant Map program to 5th and 6th graders. The Giant Map program, created by LCMM, has two components: an in-class portion where kids explore the Lake Champlain basin by completing a scavenger hunt on the 35’ x 27’ map of the watershed, and an outdoor component where we get kids out in the watershed along a local stream and teach them about water quality and scientific monitoring. This program has been received positively by students, teachers, and even local press.
Megan Wellford, a teacher at Keene Central School, shared with the Adirondack Explorer that the Giant Map program has helped her students “understand this gift of the river they have” and to see the kinds of jobs they could have in the future. “The career awareness that’s happening with all of the experts here is huge.” Read the article about the Keene Giant Map program.
A few weeks after the Giant Map exercise, we worked on a program that brought stormwater education to a local classroom. For this program, we partnered with Northwood School in Lake Placid to teach 9th and 10th grade ecology students about how human development impacts the local watershed. This program was timely as we were able to capitalize on the major stormwater upgrades in the Lake Placid downtown that had just been completed to make the content more locally applicable to students.
“It was great to have AsRA in the classroom to bring a relevant example to the students” said Northwood School teacher Marcy Fagan.
In July, I took over management of AsRA’s Guided Watershed Tours program. AsRA has been running these free tours since 2018 as a way for people to connect with the Ausable River, and this year we began organizing specific youth focused tours. As part of the youth tours, we partnered with Franklin-Essex-Hamilton BOCES on a Tree Ecology program where 12th graders from the local school system, along with some other volunteers, learned about tree ecology along riverbanks and planted trees at a river restoration site. Later that same day, we partnered with the Lake Placid Shipman Youth Center to take kids from the center to a local trails system along Lake Placid for Aquatic Ecology Exploration. In October, we partnered with the Keene Youth Commission to take their younger participants out to the banks of the Ausable River and teach a Natural History of a River lesson to them. While the kids weren’t able to take our post-tour feedback survey, I can assure you there was a lot of excitement from them during these tours!
These programs have been great not only for youth education across the Ausable River watershed but also for fostering new partnerships with the many organizations listed above. I’m looking forward to continuing these partnerships and this outreach work in 2023. Keep an eye out for future blogs about what we’re up to.