UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State Extension’s “Dive Deeper – Youth Water Educators Summit” recently received a Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence, presented annually by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
The recognition is the highest statewide honor bestowed upon businesses and organizations for environmental performance and innovation in cleaning up watersheds, saving energy, eliminating pollution, reducing waste and other initiatives.
Hosted by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, this year’s ceremony took place April 16 in Harrisburg and featured keynote speaker Patrick McDonnell, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection, with remarks from Lauren Imgrund, deputy secretary for conservation and technical services in the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
The “Dive Deeper” summit is Penn State Extension’s biennial conference of educators, both formal and nonformal, who teach youth of all ages about water, according to Jennifer Fetter, summit steering committee chairman and extension educator.
“The health of our water resources depends not only on what we accomplish today, but also in the future — that’s why it’s so important to engage the next generation of conservationists,” she said. “We are supporting that vision by providing teachers with tools and resources to foster water stewardship ideals in themselves and with the youth in their care.”
Since the summit premiered in September 2012, more than 450 participants from across the mid-Atlantic region have learned innovative ways to engage youth in water education programs.
The program, held in Harrisburg, includes opening and closing keynote speakers and a full day of interactive workshops designed to prepare educators to teach youth about water. Examples of lessons include “The Schoolyard Guide to Stormwater,” “Climate Change and Watersheds” and “Connecting Soil Health to Clean Water.” Sessions on new technology tools and emerging water-quality issues are incorporated into the program.
Fetter noted that the event is managed by a diverse steering committee that has included members from Penn State Extension, the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Beaver County Conservation District, Penn State Extension’s 4-H program and the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts.
The Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts, Capital Region Water, PPL Foundation and Daflure Heating and Cooling have provided sponsorship funding.
“Words cannot adequately express how appreciative we are for the support we receive for the program,” Fetter said. “The youth educators are especially grateful and have told us that the summit has had a positive influence on them and the students they teach. We are making a difference and moving the needle in favor of solving critical water issues.”
Rick Roush, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences, acknowledged the award, saying that clean water is paramount for the health and quality of life of all living beings. “Initiatives such as ‘Dive Deeper’ are helping to ensure the vitality of waterways by engaging Pennsylvania’s future water champions,” he said. “We congratulate Penn State Extension and everyone who has touched this effort.”
More information about the “Dive Deeper – Youth Water Educators Summit” can be found at https://extension.psu.edu/dive-deeper-summit.