The truth is, most parents in the town of Smithfield have no idea who I am, but their kids most certainly do. For the past two years, I’ve been immersed in elementary school classrooms, bringing environmental education to bright-eyed 3rd- and 4th-graders.

Currently, the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council (WRWC) has partnerships with all three elementary schools in the town of Smithfield, offering immersive, hands-on curriculum to help shape future environmental stewards.

Our program, “Woonasquatucket Birds of a Feather: Mindfulness Together,” teaches 3rd-graders about the wonderful world of Woonasquatucket birds while practicing observation and mindfulness skills. In each lesson, students learn a mindfulness technique and then take flight into learning about the science of birds. We end this program with a field trip to a site along the Woonasquatucket River (in Smithfield’s case, here at Leo Bouchard) to put our learned skills to the test. “Fish in the Classroom” allows 4th-grade students to take a deep dive into the life of a brook trout. Partnering with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, students explore the various aspects of a watershed and the Woonasquatucket River throughout the school year. They also receive the opportunity to raise brook trout in their school and release them into the Woonasquatucket River.

Through these fun-filled lessons, students develop an appreciation for and understanding of nature and the delicate ecosystems within their communities. We want kids and their families to learn how they can protect the Woonasquatucket River and understand that their actions impact other watershed communities around them.

While classroom lessons are an integral part of our curriculum, there is nothing more impactful than experiencing the splendor of nature firsthand. Through collaboration with the town of Smithfield, Smithfield Conservation Commission, Friends of Smithfield Cemeteries, Smithfield Land Trust, and generous donations from the Annenberg and James M. Cox Foundations, we are able to open the Leo Bouchard Conservation Center. Located on the Stillwater Reservoir, this newly renovated facility will serve as an educational hub for students in Smithfield and beyond, teaching the community about the watershed through hands-on educational exhibits, canoe and kayak adventures, and outdoor classrooms.

While the WRWC has been immersed in the Greater Providence community for more than a decade, our integration into Smithfield is just getting started. We are so excited to highlight the area’s incredible natural resources and educate the community about the unique challenges of being located at the top of the watershed. It’s critical that residents understand the effects of pollution, as well as cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) blooms, stormwater runoff, and the impacts of climate change.

We must work together to make the watershed a better place, and build environmental resilience. Smithfield is a beautiful place, and we look forward to forging strong relationships to protect its natural splendor.

Amanda Peavey
Education Director
Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council