Millvale Library, Girty’s Run Watershed offer environmental fellowship opportunities
Friday, September 27, 2019 | 9:04 AM
Shaler Area eighth through 12th graders have the opportunity to gain hands-on environmental conservation experience and serve their communities through an after-school fellowship.
The Millvale Community Library (MCL) and Girty’s Run Watershed Association in partnership with Allegheny College Creek Connections are offering the environmental and sustainability fellowship, which will run November through May.
Sessions will occur once or twice monthly, approximately two hours per session. Students will meet at the Millvale Community Library.
Organizers will tailor the fellowship to students’ interests, with the option to focus on the following areas: composting, green infrastructure, streambank control, tree planting, sustainable engineering and architecture, pollination and stormwater management.
Donna Pearson, Girty’s Run Watershed Association executive director, said she’s interested in green roofs, which are covered in vegetation and reduce stormwater runoff.
She also mentioned conducting a bee survey to measure the success of the Garden of Millvale’s pollinator garden. She received a 2018 Neighborhood Allies Love My Neighbor! Grant for its installation.
Allegheny College Creek Connections will provide professional water chemistry testing kits and lead monthly lessons.
“We’re there helping to run the water chemistry test, helping to make sense of the test as they are getting the results, getting them into the creek when we can with kick nets to look for the aquatic invertebrates that live in the creeks and understanding what they tell us about the creek,” said Laura Branby, Creek Connections Pittsburgh area educator/Creek Camp director.
Creek Connections partners with more than 40 Northwest Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh area schools for hands-on learning in local waterways. According to Branby, students test water for dissolved oxygen and PH levels, clarity and conductivity. Over time, they see if weather and/or construction have affected water quality.
Roman Benty, MCL youth program director, who is overseeing the fellows with Pearson, said that he plans on borrowing Creek Connections loaner modules for the fellows’ usage. Creek Connections loans the learning kits for three weeks to teachers, scouting troops, libraries and others interested in teaching watershed themes. Topics include freshwater fish, water pollution, topographic maps and streamside critters.
In April, students will interact with sustainability industry professionals during a Creek Connections-hosted Student Research Symposium at Camp Kon-o-Kwee Spencer YMCA, near Zelienople. Branby said the fellows will complete group activities with representatives from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Pennsylvania Game Commission, Allegheny County Sanitary Authority, Allegheny County Parks Department, local watershed groups and Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.
Pearson and Benty plan to showcase students’ work at a separate end-of-year event, too.
“They can talk about the project that they worked on for the year because they will each kind of pick their own individual small group projects, like something you want to study more around this issue,” Pearson said.
Branby said the fellowship is based upon the success of an after-school environmental science internship that the Little Sewickley Watershed Association sponsors for Quaker Valley High School students.
“Our goals for the students are to have environmental justice and sustainability in their own community and to be able to learn from professionals what sort of career paths exist for them,” Benty said. “We just kind of want to help supplement the learning that’s already happening in their schools with more real-life experiences outside their classroom.”
Pearson said the students will gain a sense of pride from impacting their communities.
“They are going to be helping us solve real issues. They are going to be helping us so much and we’ll be learning from each other.”