Growing Watershed Heroes in our Youth

[Note: This week we are joining author Jennifer Chambers, the Chesapeake Bay Trust, and Blue Water Baltimore, in a blog tour to celebrate watershed heroes and the launch of Watershed Adventures of a Water Bottle]

Guest post by Jennifer Chambers, Hiking Along, LLC.

Eight years ago the idea for Watershed Adventures of a Water Bottle was born from a lesson that I developed for a Montgomery Housing Partnership afterschool program in the Long Branch neighborhood of Silver Spring. The afternoon’s lesson was dedicated to teaching about the life of litter. Students first engaged in a group trash timeline activity to guess the longevity of different types of litter. Then with an oversized map and individual ones of the Anacostia watershed, we mapped and developed a story of a juice box from the point of littering to the Potomac River. What animals would it meet along its float? How would the juice box impact the life and homes of those animals?

A few days later when reflecting upon the lesson, I realized it would make a great children’s story. The idea for the book was born. Watershed Adventures of a Water Bottle tells the story of a water bottle’s journey in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and Atlantic Ocean. Upon reaching a storm drain, the personified water bottle travels the streams and rivers of Washington, D.C., meeting animals along its ride. Each animal—from the water strider to the loggerhead turtle—teaches the water bottle about itself, its origins, its journey, and those of other pollutants in the watershed. Alima is the five-year old water bottle’s heroine; making us all believe we can be one too.

Books are an excellent tool to bring issues alive and help children understand the relevancy it has to their own lives and the world around them, whether local or global. Watershed Adventures of a Water Bottle allows kids to learn how litter and other pollutants impact the health of animals that make their home in streams, rivers and oceans. I hope kids will use the knowledge gained from this book to develop a relationship with their own stream in their backyard and to act upon their own stewardship to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay, creating a generation of watershed heroes.

In a recent blog post by Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, he stated, “ …to care deeply about pollution or species, you have to love nature; you must experience it early and often. From this perspective, all conservation is local.” Many local organizations are doing this, connecting kids with their local streams and rivers to foster a new generation of watershed heroes in our region’s youth. This week’s blog tour highlights three organizations that are doing this successfully.

Blue Water Baltimore’s mission is to restore the quality of Baltimore’s rivers, streams and harbor to foster a healthy environment, a strong economy, and thriving communities.”

“The Alice Ferguson Foundation’s mission is to connect people to the natural world, sustainable agricultural practices and the cultural heritage of their local watershed through education, stewardship and advocacy.”

“The Chesapeake Bay Trust is the only nonprofit, grant-making organization dedicated to sparking on-the-ground change for the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries in Maryland. Our goal is to increase stewardship through grant programs, special initiatives, and partnerships that support environmental education, demonstration-based restoration, and community engagement activities.”

During this week’s blog tour, each organization uses the theme in Watershed Adventures of a Water Bottle and profiles their own program that is successfully facilitating youth ownership and stewardship of the region’s streams and rivers and engaging them to reduce the amount of litter in the Bay watershed. These three organizations are doing amazing work to connect children to nature and grow watershed heroes amongst our youth that will ultimately help the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries to be thriving ecosystems.