Connecting Jacques Cousteau’s Legacy to the Cuyahoga River Health

The legacy of legendary ocean explorer Jacques Yves Cousteau lives on—right here in northeast Ohio! EarthEcho International, a nonprofit founded by Cousteau’s grandchildren, is partnering with the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center to equip Ohio youth to take action for global water health, starting with the Cuyahoga River.

This afternoon, EarthEcho staff visited the Education Center to launch a partnership that will connect students to the EarthEcho Water Challenge, an annual program that gives youth a chance to help protect the water resources we depend on every day. As part of the Water Challenge, students test water quality in their local watersheds, then share their data through a global database. Through the project, Ohio youth can connect with a growing movement of citizens who are working to conserve and protect water resources around the world.

EarthEcho was founded in 2000, following the vision of Phillippe Cousteau Sr., son of the famous explorer, who envisioned “a world where every single child can breathe fresh air, drink clean water, and walk on green grass under a blue sky.” Its goal is to provide youth with the resources to solve environmental challenges in their own communities and connect to sustainability efforts worldwide.

EarthEcho’s goals are a perfect match with the mission of the Education Center. Each year, the Education Center introduces over 9,000 students to the wonders of nature through STEM learning (science, technology, engineering, and math). Instead of only reading about things like water health and sustainability in a book, children get a chance to test water quality, see salamanders, and get their hands dirty as they explore the national park.

Jim Trogdon is a teacher at Coventry Middle School in Akron and a member of EarthEcho’s Learning and Education Advisory Panel. Mr. Trogdon has been bringing students to the Education Center for 20 years and recently brought forward the idea of connecting our work in the national park with EarthEcho.

“The Cuyahoga Valley Education Center is about building communities, making connections, and embracing a child’s innate sense of wonder for nature, in the ultimate learning environment—the outdoors!” says Mr. Trogdon. Working with EarthEcho was a natural connection.

One of EarthEcho’s citizen science initiatives is to provide water testing kits to groups in over 140 countries around the world. As part of this World Water Monitoring Challenge, each group collects data about the health of their local watershed, then enters it in a global database where students and scientists can track world water health. The goal is to build public awareness and engagement in protecting water resources around the globe.

Through Mr. Trogdon’s connection, EarthEcho donated water testing equipment to the Education Center, and students from Coventry Middle School began using it today as part of the Education Center’s regular water testing curriculum. The students gathered valuable data near the Lock 29 trailhead about the health of the Cuyahoga River. Later, they’ll enter the data into EarthEcho’s international database, where than can connect their own observations with data about water quality across the entire world.

Denny Reiser

Through this exciting new partnership, the Education Center and National Park Service will help youth connect local actions with global impact—connecting the health of the Cuyahoga River watershed and worldwide water health.

This week’s students are spending several days at the Education Center as part of its flagship residential program, All the Rivers Run. Coventry teacher Mr. Trogdon appreciates the chance for immersive outdoor learning just 30 minutes from the school. He says, ““I want my students to experience connections,” he said. “Connections with their peers, teachers, and in the field with nature.”

 His students will take the lessons they’ve learned at the Education Center back to their classroom in the coming weeks. In addition to their water quality monitoring in the national park, they’re also raising rainbow trout in the classroom through a special program focused on connecting students to their local watersheds. They’ve also planted over 1,000 trees and other native plants locally, including in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Going forward, each residential class at the Education Center will take part in the EarthEcho World Water Monitoring Challenge and send its observations to the global database. Students can see what’s happening around the world, sparking their curiosity and sense of connectedness. On March 22, the Education Center  will also take part in World Water Day to focus attention on the importance of freshwater.

Connecting students with real-world environmental issues (and solutions) is one of the primary goals of the Education Center. The partnership with EarthEcho is one more way the Education Center is providing top-notch environmental programming to the youth of northeast Ohio. Thank you to all our members, donors, and volunteers who support our work!