Summer vacation is in full swing, but troves of kids in the Philadelphia region aren’t putting learning on hold. Through watershed education programs on the Circuit, Philly students are connecting to their home turf in the get-your-hands-dirty kind of way.
Tom McKeon, youth engagement coordinator with Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, is teaching watershed education curriculum to youth in the Philadelphia region. Working with a variety of partners, including the Asian Arts Initiative, Neighborhood Bike Works, Cadence Youth Cycling, Lloyd Hall Boathouse, TTF Watershed Partnership and the Wooden Boat Factory, allows McKeon’s brand of education to break from the mold. The groups he works with get a hands-on, real world experience, which allows education to be which allows outdoor education to be fun and memorable.
The Circuit’s access trails, such as Cobbs Creek Trail and Tacony Creek Trail have allowed McKeon to organize bike rides and hikes focused on local watershed topics. And because the connection to Philadelphia’s rivers and streams is such a central focus for many of the region’s residents, the on-trail watershed education is a no-brainer.
“Watersheds are important because their health impacts public and ecological health,” explains McKeon. “And the diversity of the Circuit makes these projects easy and fun,” says McKeon. “The Circuit really is the most effective way of running an outdoor program.”
Over the course of the summer, McKeon and his eager students share the wonders of benthic macro invertebrates, dig into issues like storm water runoff, and discuss the importance of healthy wetlands and riparian buffers. And the best part? The “lab,” “classroom” and “library” are all trailside.
For some students, the summer watershed education is the first introduction to the Circuit trails. It’s an assuming entrance point for youth in Philadelphia, and a taster of the incredible asset to which the region lays claim.
“I’ve seen how the Circuit is interwoven with Philadelphia culture,” explains McKeon. And the outreach that’s being done on the Circuit- by McKeon and others- that’s educating and inspiring the next generation of trail users.