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Winter Watershed Festival at SFU

December 18, 2017 Tags: Academics , Research , STEAM

Watershed Class PlumeThe Science Outreach Center at Saint Francis University hosted a Winter Watershed Festival on Monday, December 18th. The festival is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) sponsored program into the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Over 300 students in grades 5,6,7, and 9 from eight schools: Bedford Elementary, Bedford Middle, Chestnut Ridge Middle, Central High, Claysburg-Kimmel Elementary, Spring Cove Middle, Harmony Junior/Senior High, Hollidaysburg Area Junior High attended. The students showcased 90 projects in the form of presentations and displays, and participated in small competitions. 

The projects were judged for the following categories: Most Innovative, Most Researched, Most Artistic and Best Communicated. Projects presented by the students were judged by experts in the field: Ms. Suzanne Black (Blair County Conservation District), Mr. Jim Ekenrode (Blair County Conservation District), Ms. Allison Rohrs (The Institute for Energy, SFU), Mr. Michael Sell (The Institute for Energy, SFU), Dr. Amanda Martino (Biology, SFU)  Dr. Julie LaBar (Environmental Engineering, SFU), and Dr. Bill Strosnider (Environmental Engineering, SFU).

The annual Watershed Festival is just one part of a project entitled “Headwaters to Estuaries: Best Management Practices for Systemic Watershed Education” that is funded by a grant for nearly $300,000 from NOAA over three years. The overall project aims to facilitate the development of meaningful watershed educational experiences in the form of watershed integrative curriculum units for middle school teachers, and to use watershed systems as a context for learning in middle schools.

Watershed PresentationThis summer, twelve middle school teachers participated in a five-day Professional Watershed Development Institute at Saint Francis led by Dr. Lane Loya (Biology), Dr. Gail Drus (Biology), and Dr. Julie LaBar (Environmental Engineering). Through field trips and classroom activities, the teachers were introduced to abandoned mine drainage geochemistry and passive remediation systems, delineation of watersheds surrounding the school districts, assessment of biological and physical water parameters, and connections with Bay issues. The Summer Watershed Institute also provided time for the teachers to collaborate and learn from their peers and to practice their skills. In the fall, the teachers took their knowledge to their classrooms by implementing the watershed curriculum in their classes and organizing field trips to waterway sites with their students. The Winter Watershed Festival is where students are able to showcase everything they’ve learned this year through their projects and presentations.

Dr. Lanika Ruzhitskaya, the Director of the Science Outreach Center and the organizer of both the Summer Watershed Institute as well as the Watershed Festival at Saint Francis University is proud of the accomplishments of the students and the middle school teachers. “The festival is the culminating point of our efforts to educate and to raise awareness about environmental situations in our home - the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Faculty from SFU’s School of Sciences, school teachers and their students worked together during the last three years developing curriculum, activities, and visual displays to convey the importance of the environmental issues in our area.” says Dr. Ruzhitskaya.

This winter, Dr. Ruzhitskaya together with faculty from the Biology and Environmental Engineering departments will seek a new three-year funding opportunity through NOAA’s Bay Watershed Education and Training program.

SFU Science Outreach Center

2017 NOAA Summer Watershed Institute Program