East Falls’ ‘Watershed Wizards’ have chance to implement, create water education

 The Watershed Wizards working on a scavenger hung of their school environment. (Courtesy of Allison Ostertag)

The Watershed Wizards working on a scavenger hung of their school environment. (Courtesy of Allison Ostertag)

Watershed Wizards, a newly created program for East Falls fourth graders, is combining the idea of an after school science club with a focus on Philadelphia’s watersheds. 

The program is looking to raise awareness about the role water plays in the urban environment and to promote opportunities for school children to learn more about careers in the sciences.

Twenty children are currently enrolled in the program and there’s room for up to 10 more to join. The program meets alternate weeks at Mifflin School and Wissahickon Charter.

“East Falls is an ideal location to learn about watersheds, given its proximity to important land and water features and public works installations,” said Peg Shaw, one of the program’s founders.

She said the program is a way for citizens to get more involved with public schools. 

“Our project in particular has the potential to be replicated, and can involve people from multiple academic disciplines and professions,” she added.

Watershed Wizards is being funded by money made available from the budget of the Philadelphia Water Department for educational programs. The East Falls Development Corporation is assisting in the administration of the program under the aegis of East Falls Goes Green.

A confluence of events led to the decision to propose the Watershed Wizards program, which developed over the course of the last year and was finalized in November.

Shaw and her cofounder, Allison Ostertag, are having the kids contribute to developing a storm water plan for their school.

“We would like for this project to be as much as possible something the kids have created and can take ownership of,” said Shaw.

“Because this is a project-based program, the kids are going to come up with their own designs,” added Ostertag. “This approach will hopefully allow the kids to take their work back into their homes and neighborhood and share what they’ve learned with others.”

The program has funding through the end of the school year, but Shaw and Ostertag are hoping additional funds will become available that will allow the program to continue into the summer and future school years.

In the coming weeks, Watershed Wizards will begin taking field trips as well. Possible locations include the Queen Lane storm water bumpouts, the rain gardens at the Salvation Army Kroc Center and Fairmount Waterworks.

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