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Scales of Inquiry

Explore watershed and water quality issues in a favorite place in the Lake Champlain Basin or in a remote corner of the world.

Learning Outside the Classroom

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Working Together to Create a Healthy Watershed

Students are learning outside the classroom, but they are also DOING! Issues are addressed, partnerships are built, problems are solved. This kind of field experience—often referred to as service learning —is a vibrant approach to watershed education and gives students and community members authentic democratic experience.

Opportunities for real work abound!

Students work for things that need to be taken care of and are exposed to people who are problem-solvers and work in different kinds of service organizations. Youth become part of tackling real issues, adults begin to see them differently, and places are made better!


“If we lead you to the stories of how this place came to be, will you learn to love it? If you walk the trail and catalogue the plants, examine the soils and find the places that show how the people worked this land, won’t you learn to love it? What will our handprint be?””

Carol Livingston, Camels Hump Middle School,
in a letter to her students, 2003

A healthy watershed includes interactions between youth and elders, the preservation of traditions, and an active, vibrant view of the past and view towards the future.

boy ice fishingThe Vermont Folklife Center is a cultural research and public programming organization that works to the preserve the stories of this region. They offer training such as the Discovering Community Summer Institute for Educators and tools for students and teachers to learn ethnographic inquiry. In addition, they have extensive archives and resources for educators. One of their programs trains and supports youth learning to tell “true stories . . . told with sound.”

The Young Writers Project—an organization in Vermont that profiles the work of young writers in public venues—received a grant from the Lake Champlain Basin Program and worked with Pete Sutherland to write historical ballads about their community. The students worked with members of the town who shared their stories and old photos that inspired the songs the students wrote.

What Others are Doing

Local Focus

A St. Albans high school class assisted with a phosphorus fertilizer reduction campaign by conducting a door-to-door survey on fertilizer use in a local neighborhood and assisting residents with the collection of soil samples.

Looking for a service learning partner? Visit our list of watershed groups in the Lake Champlain Basin.

National Focus

See what educators around the country are doing in service learning:

For an inspiring tale of how young people can become archivists of their local community, visit the Montana Heritage Project. Although not watershed-specific, Michael Umphrey’s work is inspirational!

Visit Wetland Watchers to see the work Barry Guillot's students do to protect wetlands in Louisiana. Also read more on service learning from Barry Guillot at Edutopia.

Find out about a wonderful film that tells the story of students preserving farmland riparian habitat in California: STRAW