Reflections on the 2011-2012 BTW Field Season

By Katrina Fauss, Program Manager

BTW Students in Allegany County, Maryland

“I saw how beautiful the environment was today when I was standing on top of the mountain trail. It felt like you are on top of the world and you feel free.” — 6th grade student, Allegany County

It was a whirlwind of a year. It will be remembered by the quality of our programs, the challenges we faced, and by the innovation and creativity we have brought to Bridging the Watershed (BTW). This school year we have served over 6,500 students in the Potomac River Watershed on almost 200 field studies. We have done this with less resources and less staff. It was a tough challenge but it has forced us get to the core of what makes our program great and think outside the box to accomplish our mission and goals. We have maintained the quality of our core program by bringing in some great part time folks to support lead educators on field studies and to lead field studies.

We continued to build on partnerships, such as the Allegany County Sixth Grade Outdoor School, where we served all of the sixth graders in Allegany County for a two-and-a half-day experience at Rocky Gap State Park and C&O Canal in Cumberland. We are excited about the commitment the County has made to the program and the teacher steering committee that we will be working with next year.

We innovated and created a new program called the Service Learning and Student Action (SLSA) program. This pilot program is designed to take our current program to the next level. It will assist students to take action after their learning experience on a field study. Students from Suitland High School participated in two classroom visits and eight field studies that resulted in their returning to the National Mall to present a trash free presentation to visiting schools. We have learned many lessons along the way and are looking forward to build the next phase of the program targeting other high schools and parks. This program is supported by Best Buy and the National Mall and Memorial Parks.

Another exciting new initiative we have undertaken this year is to bring BTW to the Northeast Region of the National Park Service. We will be piloting the program in Lowell National Historical Park, Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River, Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, and Assateague National Seashore. We have just finished training the staff and teachers at Lowell and we are delighted about their enthusiasm for our program.

We are proud of what we have accomplished this year in the face of many challenges. The BTW staff did an amazing job to connect students to the natural world and our beautiful national and state parks.

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