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Floating Classroom Explores Natural Discoveries
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer
2021-07-21

            Anna Klepatch – a Havertown resident – and  six other high school-aged students embarked on three days of exploration and the development of field skills through the Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy's Floating Classroom Summer Science Program at Green Lane Park. The program combines exercise and environmental science education.

Youths taking part in the Periomen Watershed Conservancy's Floating Classroom 

Summer Science Program paddle along the shor of the Green Lane Reservoir as 

they study the environment.

 

            Through kayaking, access to microscopes and a makeshift classroom in the Walt Road Day-Use Area, participants receive a crash course on watershed science, aquatic communities, ornithology, geology and botany while gaining real-world applications for newfound knowledge.

            "I'm looking forward to the next few days," said Klepatch on Monday. She

Diana Edelblute, Perkiomen Watershed's Consrerv-

ancy's Environmental Education Coordinator leads

a lesson aboard a specially equipped pontoon boat

used as a floating classroom. 

made the hour-long trip from Delaware County to participate in the third of four sessions offered this summer.

            Klepatch, who will be a sophomore at Haverford High School, described herself as generally interested in all disciplines of science. However, she plans on majoring in biology in college.  "This area is beautiful," said Klepatch, who had previously kayaked on the reservoir while on vacation with her family. "It's very big."

            The program – designed for middle and high school students – is just one of four of its type in the nation, according to Ryan Beltz, the director of the conservancy. He said that on most days, depending on the wind, the program's pontoon boat, which is equipped with WiFi and powered by an electric motor aided by two solar panels, can access most of the reservoir's corners.

            Students collect species and water samples while they paddle throughout the Green Lane Reservoir. They analyze their discoveries on the pontoon boat using microscopes and iPads.

            Some students also received a lesson on the human impact on birds, according to Diana Edelblute, the conservancy's environmental education coordinator.

            Jim Coffey, a retired science teacher at Upper Perkiomen High School, delivered a presentation on water quality on Wednesday.  "The important thing is that

Evan Mertz, left, and Mazie DeMedio, right, use microscopes 

aboard the floating classroom.

the children can connect directly with nature," Edelblute said. "We have a unique resource to utilize."

            Beltz said students spend approximately two hours each day on the pontoon boat and on dry land. According to the typical daily schedule posted on the conservancy's website, they are on the water for approximately 90 minutes in their kayaks. Each session covers three days. Each day begins at 9 a.m. with an hour of kayaking and paddling practice.

            Lessons are presented on the pontoon boat for approximately one hour, before the students return to their kayaks to explore. Then it is on to the floating classroom for 60 minutes of investigations and discussion before breaking for lunch around a picnic table at the boat launch area in Upper Hanover.

            Following more individual investigations, they repeat the earlier classroom procedures. The final hour is dedicated to guided free time, including paddling, games, fishing and hiking.

            Coffey, who last taught at the high school in 2017, helped the students test the water quality at the reservoir. He also presented previous data collected by his former students. He said the goal is to help the campers determine the relative health of the water and enhance their problem solving skills.

            "Any time you have the opportunity to educate students outside of school is a great opportunity," Coffey said. "It's a chance to show them how nature can impact human life."


 

 

 

 

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