This summer I had the opportunity to work with Schuylkill River Greenways as an Alliance for Watershed Education (AWE) fellow. AWE is a coalition of 23 environmental education centers that work to protect and bring awareness to the Delaware River which passes through four states: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and some of New York. The Delaware River is a source of drinking water for 13 million people who use it in their everyday lives, while 2.5 million get their drinking water from the Schuylkill River. The mission of all 23 environmental centers is to keep the water clean and bring more awareness to the mission and importance of the river.
At the beginning of the summer, I went on a camping trip with all of the AWE fellows at the Pocono Environmental Education Center. Throughout the trip, we went through a series of different activities and training that taught us how to educate children, what types of games we can play that bring awareness to clean water, ideas for our capstone project, and other activities to prepare us for the rest of our summer. We also learned about the importance of the Delaware River, how the alliance started, and the organization’s mission.
After the orientation, I jumped right into helping with one of SRG’s largest events, the Schuylkill River Sojourn. The Sojourn is a week-long kayaking paddle down the Schuylkill River. Each day 100+ participants paddle 10-15 miles down the river and stop for snacks, meals, water, and education programs along the way. My task was to mentor kids who were new at kayaking and stay with them the entire ride. When I wasn’t mentoring kids, I helped with tasks that needed to be done on land like setting up tables, preparing snacks and meals, and taking pictures for social media.
After the Sojourn, I started planning for a movie night. This event was to highlight the trail and river while also making it fun for kids and families. I coordinated all the planning for the event which included getting all the supplies needed like a projector, screen, license for the movie, snacks, and creating promotional materials. Throughout June and July, I promoted the movie heavily on social media. I put up flyers around Pottstown, wrote a press release to send out to a few local newspapers, and posted the event on a bunch of Pottstown Facebook groups. The event took place on July 26th at 8:00 p.m. We had a great turnout and around 50 people came to the event!
While I was promoting the event, I also helped with a few watershed education programs. I helped with programs for Pottsgrove Summer Playground, Discovery Pathways, YWCA Camp Innabah, Project Purpose, and H2YO! summer camp. During each program, I helped teach different age groups, 2nd-7th grade about macroinvertebrates, water quality testing, and the watershed model. Working on these programs allowed me to gain hands-on experience with teaching students watershed concepts. I enjoyed this work and found it fulfilling because it inspired the students to be good stewards of their water.
Throughout the summer, I worked on my capstone project, Riverzilla. Riverzilla was done by the previous fellow from Berks Nature and SRG last year. Riverzilla is an all-day event where I invited the Reading community to join us at the Riverfront Park for a clean-up and community day. I wanted to invite everyone, those who were interested in the outdoors and those who may have never tried outdoor activities.
The first thing I did was reach out to local businesses who were interested in watershed stewardship to host a table at the event. I also created a variety of posters to promote the event and put them all over the city of Reading both inside local stores and outside in parks. I created an event on Facebook, posted updates, and shared what was happening at the event. The goal of this year’s Riverzilla was to have more people show up to the event. To make this happen, I wrote two different press releases and sent them to ten different local newspapers in the city of Reading.
Since the event was all day, I split the day up into two different parts, the river clean up and community day. The first activity was the river clean up. Our goal was to address the issue of trash being discarded in the park and bring awareness to this issue. Reading Public Works provided supplies and guides for the river clean-up. We ended up collecting over 20 bags full of trash from the trail and also near the water. The second part of the event was the community day. This was the part of the day where organizations set up a table, provided an activity, and engaged the Reading community.
A few of the table hosts that were there were Take It Outdoors, Opportunity House, Berks Nature, and Widoktadwen Center for Native Knowledge. Take it Outdoors provided free trials for kayaking and biking and allowed participants to test out on the Schuylkill River and trail. The goal was to not only inspire others to try more outdoor activities but also to appreciate natural resources. We had over 70 people try kayaking and 20 people try biking. Our event co-hosts, Berks Nature, and Widoktadwen Center for Native Knowledge, provided kid-friendly activities. I also invited a local thrift store, Opportunity House, to do a clothing swap and promote not only their thrift store but also their homeless shelter. Families who attended the event could bring gently worn clothes and swap them for something from the Opp Shop. This vendor was a huge hit and a lot of people took and brought clothes. At the event we had over 200 people show up at the event and 3 local newspapers. The event was published in Reading Eagle the next morning.
Working at Schuylkill River Greenways, has been an amazing opportunity. I learned so much from this experience. It taught me the ins and outs of nonprofits, how to work in a professional atmosphere, public outreach, and working independently. This internship will help me as I continue in my professional career by building work relationships, public speaking, and marketing for events. I hope to continue their mission of being a watershed steward and caring for local resources.