Students taking water samples from a creek

MWEE Partner of Excellence Award Honors Allegheny College’s Creek Connections Program

Allegheny College’s Creek Connections program has been awarded the Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience (MWEE) Partner Award for its work throughout western Pennsylvania and dozens of schools in the Ohio River Basin. The award is presented annually by the Pennsylvania Association of Environmental Educators (PAEE). 

The MWEE is a learner-centered curricular framework that focuses on student investigations into local environmental issues that create informed action and civic engagement. The Partner in Excellence Award recognizes non-formal education partners such as nature centers, parks, non-profit organizations, colleges or universities, among others that show an outstanding commitment to environmental education. 

Wendy Kedzierski, project director at Creek Connections, is grateful for and encouraged by the honor.

“We are confident that our work is making an impact on the students we work with, but receiving the award lets us know that others are recognizing our work,” she says. “We do this work day in and day out and sometimes feel like what we do is routine. It’s nice to know that others value our work as exceptional.”

Since its founding in 1995 as the French Creek Environmental Education Program, Creek Connections has been committed to bringing hands-on environmental education to 40 regional middle and high schools throughout western Pennsylvania. Through the program, students conduct hands-on research on local waterways while learning about scientific and field-testing techniques, the scientific process, watershed concepts, and importance of healthy freshwater systems. Scientific data is then posted for viewing by the general public on the Creek Connections website.

The program instills in students a long-lasting appreciation of the local environment and has even inspired career paths, Kedzierski notes. 

Creek Connections doesn’t impact only middle and high schoolers, however; the program has an equally positive impact on Allegheny College students. The connections made while working for Creek Connections have led back to summer internships or even jobs after graduation. Oftentimes, Kedzierski says, students end up working for the program’s partner organizations. 

Aside from career opportunities, Kedzierski adds that students have reported Creek Connections greatly enhanced their Allegheny experience by providing them a family they were a part of and could count on.

“We love what we do,” Kedzierski says. “We believe that, now more than ever, young people need to spend more time outdoors. With COVID-19, the outdoors is the safest place to be, so learning about and appreciating the local natural resources can only help young people to feel safe and excited about spending time outside.”

The MWEE Partner of Excellence Award was presented to Creek Connections at the 2022 Virtual PAEE Conference, “It’s in Our Nature,” on March 21 and 22. More information about the awards and honorees can be found here.