One of our Greenscapes North Shore Coalition partners, Salem Sound Coastwatch, offers a week-long summer institute for teachers to learn, through field work and hands on science, about watershed ecology. Teachers take the course for graduate credit and continue working in the fall to implement their curriculum. They are charged with applying their learning to their standards in project-based learning. This pedagogy of teaching connects students to their community and issues that are relevant, resulting in a deeper understanding of the issues. This work is funded by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Bay Watershed Education and Training program.
Theresa Fisher and Karen Strazzere, teachers from Wilmington Middle School, attended SSCW’s 2017 summer institute. What they learned turned into something wonderful for the Ipswich River Watershed. Not only did Theresa and Karen educate their students about the Ipswich River, but they also engaged their students in change-making behavior. Learning about the strain placed on the river by poorly regulated withdrawals led them to action. The 7th grade completed a letter writing campaign in favor of the Drought Management Bill (H.2115/S.425). The bill, sponsored by Representative Carolyn Dykema and Senator Jamie Eldridge, would enable the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs to enforce restrictions against unnecessary outdoor water use in a drought affected area. If passed, the bill would have an immense impact in the Ipswich Watershed, where there is so much disparity of water restrictions among different communities.
We at the Ipswich River Watershed Association were impressed and inspired by the initiative of these teachers and the efforts of students, like Ella Wingate and Griffin Carr, whose letters to the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture are quoted here:
“We, as a whole town, would greatly appreciate it if you would help our watershed, and place water restrictions on those that draw from an affected watershed.” – Ella Wingate
“Without a doubt, inconsistency and inequity is the source of the problem with water from the Ipswich River watershed. One reason for this is that the towns without water restriction were responsible for 90% of the water usage in the summer of 2016.” – Griffin Carr
As part of this project, Ipswich River’s Outreach Manager Rachel Schneider visited the school on Thursday, November 30th to speak to 250 7th grade students and answer their questions about the Ipswich River Watershed.
The students had some excellent questions about the problems facing the river, how issues like waste management and water conservation are currently being addressed and the various species of plants and animals that rely on the Ipswich River as part of their habitat. One question best represents both the talk and the student’s campaign: “Why don’t people conserve water?”
The answer given was that it’s often due to a lack of knowledge and awareness. Many people are unaware of where their water comes from or how it gets from its source to them. They also don’t realize the amount of water that is used in their daily routines. Through educating others, by having conversations about water, we can help change this. The students at Wilmington Middle School are already off to a great start.
At the end of the talk Rachel, Theresa and Karen spoke and the teachers asked if the students’ letter writing campaign made a difference. The Drought Management Bill is still at the committee level, but we have no doubt that the student voices were heard loud and clear.
Thank you so much to Theresa Fisher and Karen Strazzere, and to Assistant Principal Dan Faircloth, for inviting and welcoming Rachel to the school, and thank you to the amazing students of the Wilmington Middle School 7th grade, for being a voice for the river.