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Innovations in Youth Water Education in Pennsylvania Priority Watersheds


The Conewago Stream Team (CST) program initiated through this grant will demonstrate the successful integration of a youth water education program into a research and demonstration program (The Conewango Initiative). CST 4-H club activities will improve water quality and conserve water within the Conewago (PA) and surrounding watersheds through implementation of BMPs such as rain gardens, rain barrels, riparian buffers, and stenciling storm drains in partnership with the Conewago Initiative. The audience is youth aged 8 to 18 years, both current 4-H members and potential members. <P>Objectives and depth of coverage will be adjusted as needed to suit each club's members. Youth engaged in this program will: recognize and explain the properties of water, know how to determine the boundaries of a watershed, become familiar with their local watershed, learn about the contaminants that pollute watersheds, understand the effects of human activities on waterways, identify specific pollutants, determine water quality using established criteria, participate directly in hands-on water conservation projects, know how to measure water utilization in homes, apply methods to reduce usage and conserve water in their homes, share their water knowledge with peers and adults, actively participate in citizenship activities and decisions related to water conservation and water quality improvement, meet people from other schools, organizations, and agencies that are also engaged in watershed studies, meet and work with professional resource managers and educators Learn more about their careers. <P>The outputs of the CST Program will be the establishment out-of-school 4-H clubs to meet the above objectives. In year 1 the CST Youth Educator will recruit, safety screen, and train adult volunteer leaders to start 10 new CST 4-H clubs within the Conewago watershed, and recruit 10 other new or existing 4-H clubs from the surrounding three-county area to complete the Pennsylvania 4-H Water Project. <P>Efforts outside of the Conewago watershed will emphasize reaching out to urban and suburban areas of Harrisburg, Lancaster, and Lebanon to meet the needs of under-served youth. The Youth Educator will also assist the adult volunteers in the recruitment of approximately 20 to 30 youth for each club. In years 2 and 3, the Youth Educator will recruit, safety screen, and train adult volunteer leaders to start at least 5 new CST 4-H clubs within the Conewago watershed, and recruit at least 5 other new or existing 4-H clubs from the surrounding three-county area to complete the Pennsylvania 4-H Water Project. Again, emphasis will be on urban and suburban areas where under-served youth often live. The CST Youth Educator will also deliver presentations at 20 schools per year, reaching approximately 400 youth per year, mainly in addition to those in 4-H clubs and primarily through afterschool programs. <P>The Youth Educator will reach an additional 1,000 youth per year through other informal education venues, such as scouting, 4-H camps, county fairs, and the Pennsylvania Farm Show. Semi-annual webinars and water educator workshops are planned as part of the CST program as well.

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Non-Technical Summary: This project couples a 4-H water educational program, Commonwealth Stream Teams (CST), with an innovative watershed initiative (Conewago Initiative) launching in the Conewago Creek basin in summer 2009. The Conewago Creek watershed is located in Dauphin, Lancaster, and Lebanon counties in southeastern Pennsylvania. This region is a hotspot for nutrient and sediment loads that degrade the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay, and it is an area of stressed water supply due to expanding population. Facilitated by a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Conewago Initiative will accelerate the implementation of best management practices (BMPs) to reduce pollutant loads and remove Conewago Creek from the state's impaired waters list. The CST program will provide a full-time Youth Educator to recruit volunteer 4-H leaders and youth to actively engage in the Conewago watershed and other watersheds in the three-county area. CST Program 4-H youth and adults will learn about water, water quality, watersheds, and water conservation through hands-on collaboration on Conewago Initiative research and demonstration projects. CST clubs will help implement the Conewago Initiative and measurably improve water quality by doing public outreach and BMP implementation and monitoring. Participation of volunteer leaders will allow continuation of the program after the grant period. The dovetailing of the two projects represents a novel approach to integrating youth water programming with a partnership addressing real-time environmental challenges. <P> Approach: The methods of the CST Program will be informed throughout the grant period by ongoing research and results of the Conewago Initiative. The educational program will use an "adaptive management" approach to youth water education. The Conewago Initiative will hire a local project coordinator to work on-site in the Conewago watershed. CST clubs will help implement three of the four methods of the Conewago Initiative: 1) Accelerate adoption of BMPs in all segments of the Conewago watershed (ag, forest, residential, commercial, and municipal), resulting in significant sediment, phosphorus, and nitrogen reductions in Conewago Creek and other waterways in the three-county area. Some BMPs that CST clubs may help implement include installation of riparian buffer plantings, rain gardens, and rain barrels; stream cleanups; conversions of mowed grass to "wild" areas; stenciling storm drains with no-dumping warnings; and the promotion, installation and maintenance (along with partners such as Master Gardeners) of other BMPs on public and private land 2) Monitor early water quality signals and long-term improvements that will measure movement toward environmental goals. CST clubs may participate in activities such as aquatic invertebrate sampling, water quality sampling, stream gauging, inventorying BMPs, and hydrologic monitoring. 3) Increase local awareness of the ecosystem services provided by well managed lands and waterways, and the value of these services. 4-H youth will encourage media coverage of their activities and outreach booths/exhibits at events to explain the importance of BMPs. CST clubs will be required to complete at least two public outreach activities and two family engagement activities per year. Each of the major parts of the CST program will be evaluated separately so as to obtain the most accurate measures of practical effectiveness. The project will evaluate improvements to water quality by tracking the number and type of community service BMP projects that the CST clubs implement each year. Participants will complete a web-based survey at the end of each webinar to gauge the change in knowledge as a result of the webinar, the effectiveness of the presenter(s), and the effectiveness of the mode of delivery. Pre- and post-surveys will also be prepared for completion by 4-Hers undertaking the Pennsylvania 4-H Water Projects. The surveys will assess students' knowledge and behavior related to water. In addition, the Penn State-developed Life Skills for Everyday Living survey will be used to assess development of decision making, goal setting, critical thinking, communication, and problem solving skills. To determine whether the objectives of the bay-wide educators workshop were met, attendees will be surveyed with impact-based questions that measure knowledge before and after the workshop, intentions to make changes regarding the overall workshop topic, and knowledge gained in each session attended.

Smith, Sanford
Pennsylvania State University
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