Educators use the "Watershed Decisions" activity at a training workshop (Photo: Susan Boser, Penn State)
In September, Penn State Extension hosted the fourth biennial Dive Deeper Summit in Harrisburg. This gathering of educators from across the mid-Atlantic region highlights the importance of including water quality and water issues as a learning priority in school and after school. “It’s a unique event and a special opportunity for educators in Pennsylvania and across the mid-Atlantic region. We are unaware of any other summit in the country that is meant for educators teaching youth about water” says Water Resources Educator, Jennifer Fetter.
The 2018 summit was a record-setting event. Over 160 educators attended this year, from four different states. Attendees had the opportunity to learn about innovative and exciting new tools, lesson plans, and resources that they can use to help teach youth about water. Over 93% of the participants this year said they learned about a new resource that they plan to use in their education programs. Educators also benefit from networking with their peers. Over 86% of attendees this year said that they met someone new that they plan to continue networking with about water education in the future.
In Pennsylvania, the mid-Atlantic, and across the country and globe, we can see continuing water issues and new and emerging water issues. In some places flooding is causing millions of dollars of damage and causing injuries and fatalities. In other places, water quality issues are leading to drinking water health issues, depleted fisheries with commercial losses, and habitat loss for wildlife. At the same time that flooding is taking place, there are part of our country and world where water is so scarce that agriculture and communities are suffering to get by. Providing youth with knowledge and tools to understand these critical issues now provides them the skills to become stewards for water in the future.
Water also makes a great cross-disciplinary topic in school and in out-of-school activities. Water can easily be included in the sciences, but it also has a great fit in economics, arts, social studies, agriculture, and even religion, among others. It also helps youth build connections to their local community as they can explore their own drinking water sources, streams in their neighborhoods, and stormwater on their streets.
The Dive Deeper Summit will return for its fifth offering in the fall of 2020. A request for proposals to present or exhibit at the conference will be made available in late 2019. If you would like to be notified when that time comes, please contact Jennifer Fetter at firstname.lastname@example.org.