PHILADELPHIA -- As many as 2,400 urban students will paddle the Delaware River and other area waterways, test the quality of the waters and learn about key water issues over the next two weeks as the national “Canoemobile” program rolls into Delaware Basin cities.
U.S. EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin and officials from federal, state and county agencies gathered in Camden’s Wiggins Park Marina today to mark the start of the program for urban students in Camden, Philadelphia, Chester, Wilmington and Reading that runs through October 19.
The Canoemobile – one in a fleet of special vans that each travel the country with six hand-made 24-foot Voyageur canoes – brings environmental education and outdoor learning experiences to underserved, urban youth.
An initiative of the Delaware River Urban Waters Federal Partnership, the program in this area is funded through a $59,333 Urban Waters Small Grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, coordinated by the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program, hosted by local city agencies and parks departments, and implemented by Wilderness Inquiry and a number of community-based organizations. The goal of the Urban Waters Partnership is to connect residents and communities with their local water resources so that they work hard to protect them.
“This program will help to enrich lives and enhance environmental stewardship in our urban students, many of whom are getting their first experience on the water,” said EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin. “These students will then bring back what they’ve learned to their families, friends and communities.”
'The Park Service is a proud supporter of the Canoemobile project,' shared Brian Strack, Associate Regional Director for the National Park Service Northeast Region. 'We firmly believe that when young people have fun in the outdoors through activities like this, it will help engage the next generation of stewards for our local, state and national parks.'
“Canoemobile is a wonderful example of Federal agencies working with each other and with local stakeholders to provide an enriching experience for urban youth to explore the outdoors”, says Sarah Low, Philadelphia Field Station Coordinator from the USDA Forest Service. “Canoeing on the river is an opportunity for youth to see their city from a new perspective, a greener and more natural perspective. Working together we can make our cities healthier, more resilient places to live and recreate.”
Nearly 70 4th-8th grade students from Camden Forward School and 30 from Pennsauken Technical High School participated in the event along the Delaware today. They paddled in the large canoes around Wiggins Park Marina and the Delaware as a floating classroom, and rotated through a series of stations on land to learn about the ecology, cultural history and water quality of the river. Each canoe holds up to nine students and chaperones under the leadership of an environmental educator.
The land-based programming was coordinated by the National Park Service through the Camden Collaborative Initiative Environmental Education Working Group. It includes:
- Camden Children’s Garden – Race for the Sun (relay race where students learn what plants need to grow)
- Former Parks Service ranger, Revolutionary War history on the Delaware River
- N.J. Department of Environmental Protection and N.J. Watershed Ambassadors – modeling with an Enviroscope watershed demonstrator
- Center for Aquatic Sciences at Adventure Aquarium – water quality testing of Delaware River samples for nitrate, pH, turbidity and temperature
- Camden Environmental Education Working Group – materials for teachers
For a full schedule of Canoemobile activities visit: http://www.wildernessinquiry.org/programs/canoemobile/canoemobile-schedule/
For more information on the Canoemobile, visit www.wildernessinquiry.org/programs/canoemobile
For more information on recent EPA Urban Waters Small Grant awards, visit www2.epa.gov/urbanwaters/urban-waters-small-grants