From the Desk of Harry Campbell Spring 2015

CBF's Susquehanna Watershed Education Program Turns 25!

Susquehanna Watershed Education Program.
Students participating in CBF's Susquehanna Watershed Education Program (SWEP) explore local rivers and streams in central Pennsylvania, monitoring the effect of agriculture and other land uses on water quality.

The Susquehanna Watershed Education Program (SWEP) is celebrating its 25th year of showing young people how to learn and have fun on Pennsylvania's waterways, and that the health of aquatic resources depends on actions they take every day.

"SWEP is an opportunity for students to be active and genuinely enjoy their surroundings and get into what they are learning about," said CBF Educator Tom Parke. Before joining CBF in 2008 and becoming SWEP manager and educator, Parke was an eighth-grade environmental science teacher.

"The more you enjoy something, the more you tend to protect it in the future," Parke added. "I like students to enjoy PA streams and to know it's possible to have clean water. It's not something that's unreasonable to desire."

To date, SWEP has conducted 2,000 programs and involved 43,000 participants with its spring and fall Environmental Education Days. SWEP is one of 14 CBF education programs and is the only one in Pennsylvania. It serves students in grades 6 to 12 in more than 25 central Pennsylvania counties.

Students learn by immersing themselves, literally, in the Bay watershed.

Paddling canoes and exploring the creeks and rivers are highlights of the day. Students also collect and survey macro-invertebrates, and conduct water tests.

The lessons come by investigating the history, ecology, and geography of the Susquehanna River and its tributaries. The goal is to promote a deeper understanding of environmental issues and motivate future leaders to take action to improve water quality in their own neighborhoods and downstream to the Bay.

Daphne Leeder teaches Science and Agriculture at Eastern York High School and has been taking students through SWEP for at least 20 years. In fact, her class of 20 students took part in a field experience on the Susquehanna River in early April.

"It is a good program that keeps them busy with activities and it is great information that we refer back to when studying the watershed, water quality, and macro-invertebrates," Leeder said. 

Further, students from 12 Pennsylvania counties and the University of Delaware will go out on about 50 day trips this spring. The collegians will explore local streams and rivers near Lancaster in the coming months.

"Since we're mobile, we get students out on their local waterways. They learn by protecting their own waterways and that they are part of something bigger and they can create broader change," Parke added.

Leeder said the hands-on learning resonates well with her students: "They remember the concepts better when they've had the experience like this. One of the big ideas that keeps coming up for us is that everything is connected."

Long-term attendance and support give testimony to the value of SWEP. Five schools going out in 2015 will have done so for 10 years or more. The Hershey Company made an initial investment in SWEP 25 years ago and continues its support today.

—Harry Campbell
Pennsylvania Executive Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation

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