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With “Think Outside the Box” Kits, FWW Expands Watershed Education Curriculum to Hundreds of Philadelphia Students

PHILADELPHIA, PA – The Fairmount Water Works is expanding their award-winning Understanding the Urban Watershed Curriculum with more than 800 hundred hands-on, take-home kits cleverly called “Think Outside The Box”. The curriculum focuses on learning about watersheds and the region’s Green Infrastructure. The kits help teachers respond to the need to shift to virtual classrooms from full-time in-person learning due to Covid-19, and inspire opportunities for outdoor exploration and observation.  According to Ellen Freedman Schultz, Director of Education Partnerships, Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center, “To me, teachers are the frontline workers and these kits allow them to deliver instruction in a way that is hands-on for every student, especially when there is now so much screen time. Giving every student a set of teaching materials eliminates any  barriers to learning at home for both teacher and student.”

Assembling 800 boxes of materials is no small feat, but dozens of youth volunteers from the non-profit service learning organization IMPACT in Haverford, PA, dedicated to “ igniting purpose in youth”, helped put together the kits that were distributed to Philadelphia middle school students. The Think Outside The Box kits are fun and colorful. They include hands-on teaching materials and offer student tips, binoculars, a plant to grow, measure, and eat, a field study notebook, topography modeling materials, and PENN STATE Extension’s  “Rain to Drain: Slow the Flow” kit to model stormwater runoff.

The Fairmount Water Work’s Understanding the Urban Watershed Curriculum was first developed for the School District of Philadelphia in 2014 to help students learn about their local watershed and the issues involved in protecting our city’s shared water resources in the context of an urban environment. In a GRID magazine article on the program, Jose Ramos a teacher at Cook Wisshickon  School, said: “Our goal is to create responsible, activist citizens. When we’re no longer in the picture, there will be a new generation ready to take over.”

Feltonville Arts and Sciences Principal Jon Piniat Receiving Urban Watershed kits

With news of our generous grant  from the American Water Charitable Foundation to make take-home kits for our 2020-21 cohort of schools, we received matching funding from the School District of Philadelphia to serve our returning teachers, as well as a contribution of binoculars for every student from the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary,” announced Karen Young, Director, Fairmount Water Works.

Participating schools and teachers include: 

  • Eliza B. Kirkbride School, TJ Gobrieski 
  • Southwark School, Janene Hasan
  • C.C.A. Baldi Middle School, Kim Hunt, Jackie Shahar and Karen McFadden
  • Ben Franklin Elementary School,  Danielle Darby
  • Charles W. Henry School, Chariss Miller, Peg Harley and Kim Smith 
  • Warren G. Harding Middle School, Kelli Gallagher
  • Andrew Jackson School, Evan Morris
  • Feltonville Arts and Sciences, Leah Wood and Rosemary Strausser
  • Science Leadership Academy Middle School (SLAMS),  Ami Hopkins
  • Laura W. Waring Public School, Lisa Glaser

Support for this program was made possible by:

  • Philadelphia Water Department
  • Fairmount Water Works
  • American Water Charitable Foundation’s 2020 Keep Communities Flowing Grant Program
  • The School District of Philadelphia
  • Partnership for the Delaware Estuary

 Special thanks to the tireless efforts of Banny Ackerman, former co-lead of the Radnor Middle School 7th grade Watershed Integrated Program.

About the Fairmount Water Works

For more than 200 years, the Fairmount Water Works has told the story of our connection with water. It operated as a pumping station from 1815 to 1909, an aquarium from 1911 to 1962, as the Kelly Natatorium until 1972, and today serves as Philadelphia Water’s public education destination, housing an award-winning urban environmental education center. The mission of Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center is to foster stewardship of our shared resources by encouraging informed decisions about the use of land and water. We educate citizens about Philadelphia’s urban watershed, its past, present and future, and collaborate with partners to instill an appreciation for the connections between daily life and the natural environment. Located on the Schuylkill River at 640 Waterworks Drive, off scenic Kelly Drive in Philadelphia, the FWW is recognized as The Delaware River Basin’s Official Watershed Education Center and Gateway Center for the Schuylkill River National and State Heritage Area, featuring innovative, landmark exhibitions and serving as a living laboratory for urban watershed sustainability projects. For more information, visit

About the American Water Charitable Foundation  

The American Water Charitable Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides a formal way to demonstrate the company’s ongoing commitment to being a good neighbor, citizen, and contributor to the communities where American Water and its employees live, work and operate. The Foundation helps support American Water employee-identified nonprofit endeavors.

About the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary

The Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, host of the Delaware Estuary Program, leads science-based and collaborative efforts to improve the tidal Delaware River and Bay, which spans Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.