This summer we applied Solar Youth's unique program model, "Kids Explore! Kids Do! Kids Teach!" to the Trailblazers team (part of our Green Jobs Program) by tackling an educational watershed stewardship project, made possible by a grant from the Long Island Sound Stewardship Fund.
While no longer technically "kids," this group of older teens and young adult interns met three days/week to learn about the value of the watershed right in their own backyard, what young people can do to appreciate it, and how to share their knowledge with others.
The project focused on Wintergreen Brook and its role in the watershed. The first step was to conduct a cleanup of the Brook to reduce the amount of nonpoint source pollution that reaches the Long Island Sound via the West River. Next, the team split into two groups to conduct internet and book research on the difference between ponds and lakes and the history of Lake Wintergreen and the West Rock Watershed. Each group then presentated their learings to one another. Using Goole Maps, the team drew the West Rock Watershed down to the Long Island Sound by hand, and in doing so, developed questions about water systems that could only be answered by hands-on exploration.
After a stream walk training led by Nicole Davis, Watershed Coordinator, Save the Sound and Chris Sullivan, Executive Director, Southwest Conservation District where our young people learned about Channel Morphology, Surrounding Land Use, Degraded Buffers, Bank Erosion, Barriers, Modified Channels, Outfalls, and Water Conditions, our hard-working team was ready to tackle more community service projects.
Educator Project - The true mastery of a subject occurs when you can teach it to others. So after a lesson plan and facilitation workshop, the Trailblazers identified fun and educational activities that they implemented with the Solar Youth/Boys & Girls Club Mashup Summer Camp. It was a huge success! The campers ejoyed themselves while they learned a thing or two about the water that is flowing through their neighborhoods. The Trailblazers felt accomplished and gained confidence playing the role as "experts" in a subject.
Watershed Appreciation Project - The Trailblazer team has been revitalizing the woods adjacent to their housing neighborhoods all year. In keeping with this goal, and to help promote appreciation of the watershed, they created a beautiful public eating area overlooking the Wintergreen Brook Waterfall by the West Rock Nature Center. This project involved the application of many new skills and challenging physical work including:
- Resurrecting an old trail, clearing debris, and cutting back branches
- Digging out and installing steps so the public can have safe access to the area
- Safely clearing brush, downed trees and some saplings to create a clear view of the waterfall
- Building a retaining wall to minimize erosion
- Reconstructing a section of the trail that had been dadly damaged from erosion
- Leveling the ground at the site of the eating area using wood chips
- Transporting a recycled picnic table to the area
- Creating gabions used for the foundation of a bridge and boardwalk
Overall, a summer well spent!