Recent Immigrants Become Water Stewards

Images and story courtesy Clean Water Minnesota.

Adult students learning English at Harmony Learning Center in Maplewood, Minn. are becoming water stewards as they learn idioms and conjugate verbs.

These dozen students, who come from countries known more for their tropical plants and deserts, say the concept of watersheds is new. “Before, we didn’t think about how clean water is, where it’s coming from, who takes care of it,” says Veronica, one of the new water stewards from Mexico.

Three women.
Learning English while becoming a water steward with the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District.

But a partnership between the school and the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District has been expanding students’ interests and enlivening their lessons.

This fall, they prepared for a field trip to the Kohlman Lake/Creek watershed in North St. Paul and Maplewood by poring over a list of vocabulary words: “restoration, sediment, erosion, cistern, phosphorous”—scarcely the stuff of beginning English.

The students carefully intone “pervious” and “impervious” as their teacher Liddy Rich explains the difference—part of their preparation for “following a trail of water” through the chain of lakes that flows into Lake Phalen in St. Paul.

Armed with clipboards, watershed maps, and scavenger hunt vocabulary lists, the students from Myanmar, Laos, Bangladesh, Iraq, Mexico, Somalia, and Cameroon head out to learn “how to stop water where it drops,” becoming water stewards as they gain fluency with the language, says watershed education specialist Sage Passi.

Read the full story at cleanwatermn.org.

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