Campers for a Better Environment


As fires burn hundreds of acres in the West, snowstorms bury the Rockies, and floods engulf the South simultaneously, the harsh realities of climate change prompt today’s students to search for real solutions to global warming and widespread environmental degradation.

Students in the Watershed Academy for High School Students learn about answers to some of today’s most pressing environmental issues as they engage in field research and participate in conservation projects. These weeklong summer courses at The Watershed Institute in Pennington spark curiosity, instill passion, and provide opportunities for students to explore research and career options.

For example, during an Academy course on climate change, students channeled their energies into exploration and action. They learned about green energy and other technological advances such as soil carbon storage and emissions control from Princeton University engineers. In a Sept. 20 Los Angeles Times article, some of these students voiced hope after they learned about hydrogen cells that power homes and cars as well as some green architecture techniques that save water and energy. Some participated in the global Friday Climate Strike.

Summer 2020 will feature six Academy courses that immerse students in outdoor settings as they identify and design solutions to problems explored in the Stream Science, Climate Change, Environmental Field Science, Clean Water, Green Architecture and Environmental Advocacy offerings.

“Students are the change agents and we want them to discover skills needed to create better outcomes on vexing environmental issues,” said Jim Waltman, Executive Director of The Watershed Institute. “Not only will they gain a deeper understanding of the urgent issues and solutions, they will develop the tools needed to advocate for policy changes.”

Along coastal waterways, Academy students last summer removed micro plastics from the water and beaches to improve wildlife habitat. Learning outside, exploring topics in the lab, and diving into environmental science with field trips were some highlights for last summer’s students. The Watershed Institute exposes students to practical solutions for improving water quality, like installing floating wetlands to absorb nutrients from a polluted lake.

Giancarlo Grullon, 15, of Trenton said he gained a broad overview on “climate change, things like hydrogen fuel cells, how greenhouse gases affect our environment, and how we need to stop climate change before it gets too hot.” One Academy student wrote in the Stream Science survey, “It helped further inspire me to get involved in stream health/biology and gave me a really good foundation of information.” Added another Academy student, “I hope I’ll be better prepared for environmental coursework and potential volunteering and job opportunities.”

Registration for the summer Watershed Academy is open to the public online at Qualified individuals can receive scholarships and stipends to attend.

The Watershed Institute, 31 Titus Mill Road, Pennington.