Register now: Riverkeeper Floating Classroom program on Hiawatha to offer eight environmental sessions
Few learning experiences can rival an environmental education-focused cruise aboard Williamsport’s Hiawatha Paddleboat, an ideal venue to learn important aquatic topics while paddling up and down the Susquehanna’s West Branch.
“I really liked looking down into the water from the boat and thinking about what was down there besides fish,” said now 13-year-old Cerafina McKee after she and her family attended one of the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association’s seven Floating Classrooms last summer.
“No day is ever the same, so all learning experiences are varied,” said Hiawatha boat captain Mike Strunk. “You get to experience the watershed in person and being on board the Hiawatha is something you just can’t experience online.”
In addition to the venue, the Floating Classroom series connects participants with a wide variety of regional experts, hands-on programming and, when possible, live specimens to enhance the educational experience.
“Having experts and biology students teach was awesome – the animals were fun, too,” said Meg Jenkins, of Williamsport, after attending a amphibian-focused session last summer involving local hellbender expert Dr. Peter Petokas and Lycoming County Conservation District water specialist Carey Entz. “I was a wildlife biology major and I think I had more fun than the kids!”
This summer, eight family focused Floating Classrooms are scheduled between late June and September including educators representing the PA Fish and Boat Commission, Department of Environmental Protection, Susquehanna River Basin Commission, US Geological Society, Pennsylvania Game Commission, the Eastern PA Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation, two different universities (Penn State and Bucknell), among others.
Each Floating Classroom session will run from 10-11 a.m. the date it is scheduled. Boarding starts at 9:45 a.m. so the boat can leave the dock promptly at 10 a.m. Cost is $10 for the first child from a family, $8 for each additional child, $5 per adult and free for those kids ages 2 and under.
The most recent updates about the Floating Classroom programs, along with online registration and tickets, is available at www.middlesusquehannariverkeeper.org/floating-classroom.html
This year’s sessions and presenters include:
JUNE 28: AQUATIC MAMMALS (SOLD OUT)
Join the Department of Environmental Protection’s Bert Myers as he profiles the wetland mammals native to the Commonwealth. This presentation will provide tips on identification, natural history and their current status. Participants will learn how to classify these mammals by diet and family. In the second presentation, by landscape architect Brian Auman, learn specifically about the beaver and how it can impact a watershed. This hands-on program is suitable for the entire family. To register and purchase tickets, click here. ** This session has sold out of tickets. If openings become available, it will be advertised at a later date.
JULY 12: MINING HERITAGE AND AMD ISSUES
Join former Pennsylvania coal miner Van Wagner for interpretive program about the human story behind coal. Who were the people who mined (and still mine) coal? Where are the coal regions found? A little bit of music and a lot of history will make for a special program on the Susquehanna. Meanwhile, Bobby Hughes, the executive director of the Eastern PA Coalition of Abandoned Mine Reclamation, will offer a presentation of current issues related to Acid Mine Drainage (AMD). To register and purchase tickets, click here.
JULY 19: MICROPLASTICS & FISH ANATOMY
Kim Dagen, environmental scientist with the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, shares an overview on plastics found in the river, the sampling equipment used and hands-on experiments that demonstrate some of the issues related to microplastics in our waterways. Meanwhile, USGS research fisheries biologist Vicki Blazer will discuss general fish anatomy via a live dissection demonstration. To register and purchase tickets, click here.
AUG. 2: BATS OF OUR WATERSHED
Pennsylvania Game Commission biologists talk about the importance of bat species in our watershed, how they impact our aquatic ecosystem and we will review different bat species' identification and characteristics. To register and purchase tickets, click here.
AUG. 16: INVASIVE INVADERS
Dr. Megan Kepler Schall, Assistant Professor Biology at Penn State-Hazelton, and Sydney Stark will lead presentations on common aquatic invasive species that threaten our watershed including the flathead catfish, snakehead and rusty crayfish. To register and purchase tickets, click here.
SEPT. 10: AQUATIC PHOTOGRAPHY, VIDEOGRAPHY
Dr. Joseph Simons, vice president of the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association and pioneer of the Wild Trout Man video series, will join photographer/videographer Michael Kinney in presentations about their work with tips on how to improve your own photography/videography of our outdoor resources. To register and purchase tickets, click here.
SEPT. 13: FLOODING IMPACTS AND AGNES' 50th ANNIVERSARY
This year is the 50th anniversary of the devastating Agnes flooding throughout the region. This session will offer a look back at the historical elements of the flood with a presentation by Bucknell University's Andrew Stuhl, and how flooding events impact aquatic ecosystems as demonstrated through a floodplain simulation model run by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission's Graham Markowitz and Ben Pratt. To register and purchase tickets, click here.
SEPT. 27: FLEX THOSE MUSSELS
Sean Reese, program scientist with Bucknell University's Watershed Sciences and Engineering Program, will lead a presentation on freshwater mussel life cycles, their importance in aquatic ecosystems along with some implications for their conservation along with a demonstration of their filtration capacity. Another presentation onboard will focus on identification and invasive species concerns. To register and purchase tickets, click here.
John Zaktansky is an award-winning journalist and avid promoter of the outdoors who loves camping, kayaking, fishing and hunting with the family.