Cook-Wissahickon students honored for efforts to ‘go green’

 Cook-Wissahickon students displaying a part of their greening efforts. (Queen Muse/for NewsWorks)

Cook-Wissahickon students displaying a part of their greening efforts. (Queen Muse/for NewsWorks)

For more than two years, students at Cook-Wissahickon Elementary School have been working on projects to make their school green, and their hard work is starting to pay off.

Students in 6th through 8th grade at Cook-Wissahickon designed and installed a meadow to collect stormwater from the school’s building, to help filter pollutants and reduce flash flooding in nearby streams. Students also created and managed several composts and miniature gardens on the school’s grounds.

This week, representatives from the Philadelphia Water Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Schuylkill Action Network presented 7th grade Cook-Wissahickon students with the Drinking Water Scholastic Award for their efforts to help keep the Schuylkill River Watershed clean.

Teachers Jose Ramos and Diane Powers accepted the award with their students on Wednesday.

Making it work

Ramos said the school’s partnership with Watershed member organizations has been an asset to the school’s curriculum and to student’s learning experiences, as well as a bridge over the District’s budget cuts.

“I think one of the things helping us is, you know the budget crisis is taking a lot of the money we would have, but we’ve learned to survive without them. We’re getting grants, the meadow is being funded by grants, and we get a lot of volunteer help,” he said.

“All of these community organizations that we’re connecting with are bringing something to the table. So, where we don’t have the money in our own budget, they’re providing extras in terms of curriculum support, and other things.”

In addition to encouraging greening through classroom activities, Ramos and Powers lead the Energy Stars Environmental Club, which meets weekly to discuss ways to reduce energy use, and increase recycling and greening at Cook-Wissahickon.

Ramos said students were excited to see their work honored.

“They’ve had two of the most awesome years. It’s been a roller coaster of a year and a half because we’ve received multiple awards. And the students, they really enjoy this work.”

A long-term vision

According to PWD Source Water Protection Program representative Kelly Anderson, the agency has been presenting the Drinking Water Scholastic Award to schools in the Schuylkill River Watershed since 2004. The award is granted to schools that raise awareness, teach curriculum, and complete projects that promote the importance of protecting drinking water sources.

The SAN was established in 2003 with the goal of improving the water resources of the Schuylkill River Watershed by implementing strategic protection measures through partnerships with state agencies, local watershed and land conservation organizations, businesses, academics, water suppliers, local and state governments, regional agencies, and the federal government.

Anderson said Cook-Wissahickon was chosen to receive this year’s award because of their consistent efforts to “go green.”

“They have exhibited a long-term vision for greening their campus and addressing storm water management by tying in classroom lessons concerning watershed/drinking water protection with on-the-ground storm water projects on their campus,” she said.

The award was granted to the students in celebration of National Drinking Water Week, which runs from May 4 through May 10 each year.

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