NMRWA is part of the Climate and Urban Systems Partnership (CUSP) Pittsburgh group. CUSP is a national project, funded by the National Science Foundation, with groups working in Philadelphia, New York, Pittsburgh and Washington, DC. Each city works to create a model of climate change education that can be used in cities around the country. Focusing on community issues, the group relates climate change back to their audiences. Many Pittsburgh area organizations, with a focus on the environment, come together to form CUSP.
NMRWA has been participating in discussions and activities of CUSP for several years now. This year, CUSP created a fun and exciting plan to engage kids and adults in learning about climate change. CUSP’s leaders assembled an impressive Climate Change Playground where anyone could learn how everything from daily activities to city planning can affect our climate.
The playground fit in perfectly at ALCOSAN’s Open House on Saturday, September 20th, which was an opportunity
for people to learn about ALCOSAN and take a tour of the facility. NMRWA, along with the Pittsburgh Park Conservancy, manned the green infrastructure activity. There, we engaged kids with a small model of a city. Buildings and houses made from legos were placed in a paint tin that also housed a sewage pipe at the edge of town. We asked a participant to take a watering can to simulate a rain storm over the city. Small brown and yellow dots represented sewage in the pipe. As the storm rolled into the city, participants saw what happens in Pittsburgh when it rains. Kids saw the sewage flow into the river of the model city and they were able to draw connections between that event and their city. Some even made the connection between the sewage pipe and what they had just learned on a tour of ALCOSAN. Next, we asked participants to choose different kinds of sponges that each represented a different green infrastructure project from green roofs, rain barrels, urban forests, grassy areas and rain gardens. The participants were allowed to place as many sponges, wherever they thought was best in the city. Once the green infrastructure was in place, another rain storm occurred in the city. This time, kids were able to watch the sponges absorb the water and the sewage stay in the pipe. Then we were all able to celebrate their efforts to save Pittsburgh and our rivers. Many kids recognized the rain barrels as the same ones that are outside of their house while their parents talked to us about the larger issues of our stormwater system in Pittsburgh.
Other activities in the playground included learning how climate change affects different animals like snails and salamanders to learning how the different foods you eat create a different impact on the environment.
Throughout the day, CUSP leaders were collecting data and information about how participants were learning during the activities. They will take this information and evaluate the activities and improve on them next time if needed.
NMRWA really enjoyed being part of CUSP’s Climate Change Playground at the ALCOSAN Open House. It was great to interact directly with the kids in our community and to watch them make connections to their daily life. We are looking forward to continuing to work with CUSP to improve climate change education.
Did you attend the ALCOSAN Open House? Were you able to participate in the Playground?