September 26, 2012 —
“Did you say Martians?” exclaimed one wide-eyed sixth-grader as Nick Spinelli, executive director of the Lake Wallenpaupack Watershed Management District, discussed the many benefits of wetlands during a regional visit last week from the Wyland Clean Water Mobile Learning Experience (MLE).
“No, I said marshlands,” laughed Spinelli, who spent the day staffing a “Wetlands Investigation” booth to educate sixth-graders at Wallenpaupack Area Middle School about the importance of wetlands and macroinvertebrates to water quality.
In addition to a 40-person on-board multi-sensory theater, the Wyland MLE features models that explore the nature of watersheds via rain over a landscape, a running river, computer model simulations and hands-on activities.
Other local environmental professionals from the Pike County Conservation District and Pennsylvania Power and Light contributed their expertise by customizing the water messages to focus on regional ecosystems.
At one booth, “pollutants” in the form of small plastic marbles were placed across a watershed. Students witnessed what happened as “rain” was turned on and the marbles made their way ultimately to the ocean. At another, students spun a wheel, then punched buttons to apply various human impacts to estuary food webs. Crestfallen faces said it all as dolphins died off and multiple bird species went dark. Students also learned what actions to take to avoid such problems.
“It’s education brought to life,” said middle school principal Keith Gunuskey. “Any time you can provide hands-on learning, students’ interest and understanding grows significantly.” The information provided during the MLE visit ties in with the sixth grade curriculum, according to Gunuskey. “As teachers address issues related to water conservation and pollution throughout the year, they will be able to refer to the visit,” he said.
The Wyland MLE also visited other Pike County schools while in the area, thanks to the support of the U.S. Forest Service at Grey Towers National Historic Site in Milford, along with the Wyland Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by artist and environmentalist Wyland, along with National Van Lines.
Visit www.wylandfoundation.org/education-Clean-Water-Mobile.shtml  to learn more.