The only sound that could be heard was the rushing water of the nearby Mosquito Creek as an amazingly quiet group of 4th graders tried to get a close-up look at a sleeping doe.

It was the only still moment in a busy day of exploring the watershed during the class field trip with the Clean Water Institute at the Waterdale Environmental Education Center in South Willamsport.

The day was punctuated by giggles and gasps as 100 students from Jersey Shore Area School District collected bugs from under rocks in the creek to determine water quality, toured the water filtration plant, spotted woodpeckers and other birds on a nature hike and got a rare look at a Hellbender, Pennsylvania’s state amphibian.

A collaborative effort that includes Lycoming College’s Clean Water Institute, the Williamsport Municipal Water Authority, Lycoming Audubon Society and the Lycoming County Conservation District among others, the Environmental Education Center provides hands-on environmental education programs for hundreds of students in six nearby school districts.

“This partnership provides opportunities for community education and outreach programs which emphasize the science and importance of good stewardship,” said Dr. Mel Zimmerman, Ph.D., founder and director of the CWI and Lycoming College professor emeritus of biology. Zimmerman has overseen the Waterdale Environmental Education Center since its inception in 2014.

A PPL Foundation grant awarded to the center in 2018 helped support the development of enhanced lesson plans and acquisition of additional equipment and models for hands-on learning, expanding the number of programs the center could offer to students.

“With new hands-on equipment and supplies, we’re able to improve our current outreach efforts and develop new activities to teach students how vital it is to protect our natural resources and public water supply sources,” Zimmerman said.

Additionally, expanded educational offerings at the center will create new opportunities for Lycoming students pursuing education certification in the sciences to interact with and mentor the school-age students who participate in the center’s programs. A recent grant from the National Science Foundation to Lycoming to expand the number of science education students will help support this opportunity.