My Voice My Community
Spotlight on Fairmount Water Works

This weekend, at our two-day overnight retreat for NID Network teachers, Robert Rivera from Willard Elementary will be describing his students’ project and the help he received from community partner Ellen Schultz at Fairmount Water Works (FWW). Those who attended Shout Out recall the series of podcasts Robert's fourth graders did to raise awareness about water pollution. You can see and hear several by clicking here.

Students at Willard, Hopkinson and Logan Elementary schools chose pollution as the focus for their yearlong service-learning projects. Using Office of Watershed maps of historic streams, Ellen helped the students relate their neighborhoods to the city's infrastructure and see how trash and waste could end up in a creek during a storm.

Alexis Fallen’s 4th graders at Logan Elementary anticipated seeing graffiti and abandoned buildings on their community walk at the beginning of the year. Instead they stumbled on a more disturbing issue: “The trash is all over the streets. Why, Ms. Fallen?” they asked. The question that ultimately drove their research was: “How do we stop littering in order to avoid water pollution?”

Her students marked storm drains and cleared trash and later studied how trees and shrubs, gardens and vegetation, conserve water and contribute to the quality of the environment. A team organized by Ellen with help from the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society’s Tree Tenders program, the Philadelphia Water Department’s Office of Watersheds and the EPA helped Logan students plant trees along the path leading to the school’s main entrance.

Cynthia Johnson teaches special education at Hopkinson Elementary. Her 6th graders were concerned about nearby Hopkinson Creek and how dirty it seemed.

Ellen engaged the students in activities to help them experience, in hands-on ways, the causes and effects of pollution. Using cardboard paper, construction paper, glue, pipe cleaners and a lot of imagination, they created three-dimensional models of the city's infrastructure above and below ground to trace the path of storm water runoff. Cynthia’s students visited the water treatment plant in their neighborhood where they got a special tour of the facility.

Robert Rivera uses technology to engage his 4th grade students, many of whom are proficient in Spanish but not in English. They used a blog as a discussion forum for their project on water pollution, about which they were most passionate.

His class created a series of four podcasts, written and illustrated by the students and showcasing what they’d learned about the causes and effects of water pollution. By mid-May the site had 781 visits, making Willard the District’s third most visited podcast site.

Thanks to FWW for their important work of helping students understand the urban watershed and the connections between daily life and the natural environment.

Click here to read the story they posted on their partnership with Need in Deed.