Schuylkill Acts & Impacts 2015    

Fri Mar 20, 2015

What is Schuylkill Acts & Impacts?

Schuylkill Acts & Impacts is a week long service-learning program that will be offered to a team of fifteen high school students from communities within the Schuylkill River Watershed.

This expedition will involve a physical journey (by kayak and van) along the 120-mile Schuylkill River from its headwaters in the anthracite coal lands of Schuylkill County to its confluence with the Delaware River in Philadelphia. Team leaders from Fairmount Water Works, Take It Outdoors Adventures and the Schuylkill Headwaters Association will guide students downriver, illustrating an array of issues impacting water quality in the Schuylkill River through guided tours, programming, and applied service work designed to highlight issues in the watershed and explore hands-on solutions to these problems.

Target issues will include: 1) the impact of legacy coal mining on water quality; 2) agricultural impacts including erosion and manure management; 3) the role of land preservation in watershed health; and, 4) the impacts of stormwater and impervious surfaces on water resources. For example, students will paddle stretches of the river with biologists and conduct basic water quality monitoring, tour abandoned and active coal mines, visit farms to examine stream bank erosion, and walk the streets of Philadelphia to witness pioneering work at mitigating stormwater. Daily reflection and discussion will challenge participants to think about their own habits and use of water and provide them with tools to take action in their own stretch of the watershed.


When is the expedition?

Schuylkill Acts & Impactswill take place from Saturday, July 11 to Saturday, July 18, 2015. A mandatory orientation and team-building day for all participants will be hosted at the Fairmount Water Works in Philadelphia on Saturday, June 6, 2015. The orientation will serve two purposes: 1) to allow students to meet each other prior to the expedition and begin to form relationships through team-building exercises and, 2) to allow for initial discussion of environmental impacts in the Schuylkill River Watershed so that participants have a basic understanding before the program begins. Please plan accordingly. Attendance at all events is required for participants. However, if expedition dates conflict with class time, we can work with school administrators to outline the educational content of this program and document service hours.


Can I apply for Schuylkill Acts & Impacts?

Schuylkill Acts & Impacts will be a group of 15 high school students (9th-12th grades) from the five counties located within the Schuylkill Watershed (Schuylkill, Berks, Chester, Montgomery, and Philadelphia) selected through a competitive application process. Applicants must currently be enrolled in high school at the time they submit their application, however graduating seniors will be considered.


Where will the team stay?

The Schuylkill Acts & Impacts expedition will travel throughout the Schuylkill River Watershed, participating in daylong projects with local environmental organizations. For eight days and seven nights, participants will sleep under the stars and learn in a classroom with no walls. Each night participants will camp or stay in basic accommodations at various parks and preserves. All necessary gear will be provided by Take It Outdoors Adventures and partnering organizations.


Can I still apply if I don’t have any experience in the outdoors?

Absolutely! One of the most important components of this program is its focus on environmental education and outdoor recreation.  If an applicant is interested in nature and the outdoors, but does not have any prior camping experience, this program offers the perfect opportunity to learn. Take It Outdoors Adventures’ leaders are professional outdoor guides and will teach participants everything from paddling a kayak to setting up a tent.


Will this program impact my future?

Schuylkill Acts & Impactsprovides each student participant with a binder of internship opportunities, volunteer-based organizations, and conservation leadership materials within the Schuylkill River Watershed that will offer additional opportunities to gain professional experience through internships and continue environmental service work during summer, throughout the school year or in college. Many organizations listed will be offering presentations and tours, providing students with the chance to network. Additionally, the Schuylkill Acts & Impacts program is a great way to learn leadership skills, build a resume for college, and acquire community service hours.


How much does the expedition cost?

There is no cost to apply for or participate in the Schuylkill Acts & Impacts program. All participants will be given full scholarships made possible by various sponsoring organizations in the Schuylkill Watershed.


What organizations are involved in Schuylkill Acts & Impacts?

The Schuylkill Headwaters Association (SHA), Fairmount Water Works, and Take It Outdoors Adventures are leading the 2015 Schuylkill Acts & Impacts expedition. SHA is a small nonprofit organization founded in 1998, whose mission is “to promote the environmental integrity of the Schuylkill River, its tributaries, and the watershed that lies within the boundaries of Schuylkill County.” Schuylkill Acts & Impacts steps beyond SHA’s work in the headwaters to engage our partners in the wider watershed and provide student exposure to issues impacting the health of the Schuylkill River and develop emerging environmental leaders. Fairmount Water Works (FWW) is the watershed education center of the Philadelphia Water Department. Its mission is to foster stewardship of our shared water resources by encouraging informed decisions about the use of land and water. FWW collaborates with partners to instill an appreciation for the connections between daily life and the natural environment. We are also thrilled to be collaborating with many other dedicated partners and sponsoring organizations within the Schuylkill River Watershed to execute and sustain Schuylkill Acts & Impacts. These organizations are leaders on their respective watershed issues and have contributed greatly to the development of the Schuylkill Acts & Impacts’ education program.


Who will be leading the expedition?

Schuylkill Acts & Impactsteam leaders will be a combination of professional outdoor education instructors from Take It Outdoors Adventures, Fairmount Water Works and Schuylkill Headwaters Association Outreach & Education personnel who have undergone rigorous background checks and have extensive experience in group facilitation and leadership development programs. The maximum instructor-to-student ratio will be 1:4.


How to submit an application:

1.      Applicants should complete the application form and short answer questions on the link provided.

2.      A parent or guardian MUST sign the parental consent form.

3.      A teacher familiar with the applicant must submit a one-page letter of recommendation discussing his or her commitment as a student and any interests/involvement in environmental studies or service projects.

All documents should be signed, scanned, and emailed as PDF files to Schuylkill Headwaters Association Outreach and Education  Coordinator Alexa Kramer at by 5:00 pm on Friday, April 24, 2015. Please email or call Alexa Kramer at or 570-640-8896 with any questions prior to submission.

If electronic submission is not possible, please mail hard copies to be received by the deadline to:

Schuylkill Headwaters Association

Attention: Schuylkill Acts & Impacts Application

P.O. Box 1385

Pottsville, PA 17901


How are applicants chosen?

Participants will be chosen based on the completeness and quality of their application and teacher recommendation, due by 5:00 pm on Friday, April 10, 2015. As there are only fifteen spots available, admission to Schuylkill Acts & Impacts is highly competitive. Applicants selected for an interview will be notified by April 20th. Interviews by phone or Skype will occur that week. Final selection of the Schuylkill Acts & Impacts 2015 team will be announced Friday, May 1, 2015.


Requirements and expectations:

Before completing the application, students should review the following list of requirements and expectations.  If willing to agree to meet each of the points, please complete the attached application.

  • Students must be currently enrolled in high school (9th-12th grade). Graduating seniors will be considered.
  • Students must live or attend school in Schuylkill, Berks, Chester, Montgomery, or Philadelphia counties.
  • Upon selection, student participants and their guardian must complete all necessary medical forms, waivers, and consent forms.
  • Selected students must participate in the Schuylkill Acts & Impacts orientation on Saturday, June 6, 2015.
  • Selected students must commit to participating in the entire weeklong Schuylkill Acts & Impacts expedition from Saturday, July 11 to Saturday, July 18, 2015. Documentation of the program’s educational value and community service hours are available to school administrators and teachers.
  • Selected students must be willing to actively engage in environmental service work, team-building activities, and reflection exercises during the orientation and expedition.


If you agree with the above information, please complete an application.  We look forward to your submission!


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