Matthew Mechler

This programme had two major components. The first component of this institute was the education provided by North-East Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD)  on Combined Sewage Overflows (CSO) , the urban water cycle, and ways to reduce rain runoff in urban environments. The other component was the learning object my learning community and I worked on at Valley Forge High School. The project entailed using the wetland located in the courtyard of the high school to facilitate learning about wetlands, biology, and environmental science. Activities:
  • Meeting with NEORSD representative
  • UWISLS Institute
  • Designing service learning activities with University Professor
  • Helping UWISLS students produce a learning object
During the training for the Urban Watershed Igniting Streams of Learning in Science (UWISLS) I had the opportunity to go on a tour at NEORSD Lab and Water Treatment Plant. Afterwards, a representative educated my fellow Stewardship Liaisons and I on the lawsuit brought against the sewer district by the EPA because of the problems caused by CSO’s during severe rain events. We were also informed about the Urban Water Cycle which leads to the rain runoff problems and the problems with CSO’s.     The terms of the lawsuit require that the sewer district pay the state and national government, and also reform their methods of dealing with stormwater runoff. A fee is being implemented to help cover the cost of the new plans. All property owners in urban areas will be required to pay a fee that based on the amount of impervious surface cover present on their property. Tax credits can be earned if property owners take actions to reduce the amount of runoff that enter sewers from their properties. Such actions include making a rain garden or placing rain barrels on the property.Schools can earn tax credits by including in their curriculum NEORSD topics. The UWISLS institute worked to educate students on this. The students with the learning objects would then begin to implement these topics in their schools curriculum.

My learning community at Valley Forge High School has planned to use the Wetland in their schools courtyard to facilitate learning and to meet the requirements of NEORSD and the EPA. We are still only in the planning stage of this process, but  I personally have high hopes for our activities. I hope we can change the way science is taught at Valley Forge and I hope our activities will earn the school a tax credit in the future.

Skills Developed:
  • Organizational Skills
  • Leadership Skills
  • Technological Design
  • Community Building
  • Multitasking Skills
  • Time Managment
For me, my leadership skills were greatly improved. I had to be a role model to my students, but at the same time I had to closer to them than an ordinary teacher. It was hard for me to demand respect from students I didn’t know. But once we all got to know each other, I feel that we connected well enough. They respected me because they knew I had knowledge to share, and respected them for wanting to learn. It was difficult at times to connect with my students, but once I gave them helpful advice they I knew I could be helpful. I was also in charge of making sure we had the necessary equipment during the institute. That involved talking to people and finding out if they need anything from me.

My time management skills also improved. During the training weeks we had to organize the activities for the institute so we could use the time we had to our best advantage. We had to figure out what activities would need the most time, which ones weren’t all that important, which ones could be shortened, and which ones could be eliminated all together. It was hard because some of the more entertaining activities had to be shortened or eliminated in place of more intellectually beneficial activities.

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