Allegheny College’s Creek Connections Program Receives Grants to Promote Watershed Education

Allegheny College has received $93,000 in grants from The Grable Foundation of Pittsburgh and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to support the College’s Creek Connections program, an environmental education outreach effort that brings hands-on environmental education to K-12 schools throughout western Pennsylvania.

A $90,000 grant from The Grable Foundation, a foundation dedicated to changing the lives of children and youth, will be used over three years to help Creek Connections expand students’ science knowledge by teaching watershed concepts. For example, the grant will support Creek Connections’ Pittsburgh-area educator Laura Branby in providing Creek Connections programming for Pittsburgh-area teachers; allow Creek Connections to work with other Pittsburgh organizations such as Tree Pittsburgh, the Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP), and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy; and help Creek Connections to create a new environmental/human health module that will be added to the 16 Watershed Science & Technology Modules that Creek Connections loans to regional educators at no cost. These modules include the equipment and supplies to conduct water-related activities and research projects.

Another grant will help Creek Connections provide resources to teachers offering Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences, learner-centered experiences that focus on investigations into local environmental issues that lead to informed action and civic engagement. Financial and other support for this project, titled “Creek Connections 2021-2022,” has been provided by the Department of Environmental Protection’s 2021 Environmental Education Grants Program. As part of this effort, the $3,000 grant will allow Creek Connections to create Creek Kits, outdoor “grab-and-go” buckets, for 20 teachers to help with outdoor lessons and activities for their students.

“We truly appreciate the support of our partners. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Educational Experiences mini-grants allow us to purchase equipment for our teachers that make teaching outdoors easier and wouldn’t be possible without the grant,” said Wendy Kedzierski, project director of the Creek Connections program.

The support Creek Connections receives from The Grable Foundation is vital to the success of the project in the Pittsburgh area, Kedzierski said. “Having the personal, face-to-face interaction with teachers and their students is what makes our project so helpful to teachers. They have access to a lot of resources these days, but need the additional staff support to implement them in a meaningful way with their students,” she said.

Through the award-winning Creek Connections program, Allegheny College forges partnerships with regional K–12 schools to turn western Pennsylvania waterways into outdoor environmental laboratories. Emphasizing a hands-on, inquiry-based investigation of local waterways, this project annually involves more than 40 secondary schools and the classes of 50 teachers.