Our Cause


Funds raised through the Urban Runoff support clean water education in local schools. Lessons are provided by the Cumberland County Soil & Water Conservation District through their CONNECT Program.  Students receive hands-on lessons about water both outdoors and in the classroom. Lessons focus on the role water plays in our ecosystem and community and students’ ability to make an impact.

CONNECT Highlights:

Fun in the Classroom

Our lessons can be done right in the classroom! Lessons cover topics that focus on clean water, marine ecosystems and agriculture (our CONNECT Catalog provides an overview of our most popular lessons). Activities can be tailored to the students’ needs and adapted to be age appropriate.

Featured Photo: South Portland students learn about polluted runoff during the Stormwater Stew lesson. In this fun and engaging activity, a student led story about alewives and their river home highlights different “pollutants” the alewives encounter. Students learn about the cumulative impact of pollution and solutions to help keep our water clean!

Fun in the Field

Let’s face it – the best place to learn about the environment is outside. We love getting groups outside to explore their world, even if it’s right on the school grounds! Our lessons get students thinking like scientists and engineers by assessing the health of natural resources and finding solutions to common environmental challenges.

Featured Photo: Westbrook students participate in the River Currents field trip. Students study macroinvertebrates (insects that live in streams and help us understand stream health) collected from the Presumpscot River during the field trip. The students learn from local scientists, conduct water quality tests, and complete a stream side assessment at two different locations to understand how land use impacts the River. This trip is a great opportunity for students to bring what they learn in the classroom into the field!

CONNECT to Community

Many of our lesson topics can CONNECT students to their community through service learning. For example, our Youth YardScaping unit takes students on an exploration of common lawn care practices and the effects they can have on our health, our soil, and our water. Students research healthy lawn care practices and “adopt” a section of their school grounds to implement assigned practices. At the end of their research, the students become the teachers as they present their findings to the public.

Featured Photo: Portland students stop to pose with a storm drain on the clean water field trip that kick starts their Youth YardScaping program. Following the field trip, students are assigned a lawn care topic to research. District staff make weekly visits during the program to assist students in their research and work with them to implement YardScaping practices on a test plot at their school. The students conclude the program by presenting to friends and family at their annual spring fair.

Messy Learning

Our lessons often involve getting messy! (Don’t worry, we will always clean up after ourselves!) Mudflat Mayhem is a great example of messy fun: students take part in a six-week investigation of the Casco Bay mudflat ecosystem. This hands-on, in-depth study focuses on the science behind coastal acidification, the Gulf Stream, and marine debris. Students explore the lifecycle of the clam, watershed modeling, pH testing, mapping, tidal cycles, and mud microbes. The highlight of the session is a trip to explore a Casco Bay mudflat.

Featured Photo: Home school students participating in Mudflat Mayhem take a field trip to a mudflat in Freeport to explore clams, eelgrass, and Casco Bay’s mud.  The two boys pictured are collecting pH data with equipment generously loaned to us by Friends of Casco Bay.