Dragged down by the never-ending barrage of negative news? Local action is the antidote to global bad news. With your help, we’ve been tackling global issues right here in the Bay Area with hands-on education and volunteer stewardship programs. The following are just a few of the steps we are taking to make the Bay Area a more beautiful and healthy place to live.
Earth Day Block Party
Healthy Watersheds Program
Coastal Cleanup is the largest cleanup day of the year, but it isn’t the only one.
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, The Watershed Project organized more than 400 volunteers to help clean sites along the Contra Costa County Bay shoreline. And on Earth Day, approximately 500 volunteers planted native shrubs, trees, and grasses at the Richmond Greenway.
In the weeks before Earth Day, staff from The Watershed Project and partner nonprofit groups took to the streets, knocking on doors and handing out flyers about the event. In North Richmond, about 100 residents old and young, from Little League baseball players to politicians, showed up at Verde Elementary School to clean the two nearby creeks. Supplied with poles, boots, and waders, they ventured into the water, some for the first time.
“It was like a block party,” said Juliana Gonzalez, the Healthy Watersheds Program Manager. But this was more than fun. Within a few hours, Richmond’s residents were speaking to the local press like experts about why it’s important to keep trash out of the Bay.
Bye Bye Basura
Healthy Watersheds Program
San Pablo, California, and Manzanillo, Mexico are already sister cities, but thanks to TWP, they are also connecting through a unique cross-border educational experience. For the second year in a row, TWP’s Bye Bye Basura paired an elementary school in California with one in Mexico to teach students about shared responsibility for protecting our ocean.
By the end of the three-day workshop, students knew that it takes only six months for a banana to decompose, but 450 years for a plastic soda bottle to break down. They learned about the Pacific Gyre, that great mass of roving trash that swirls in the Pacific Ocean. And through a trash survey, students discovered each schoolyard’s most prominent items: straws and Syrofoam plates in Manzanillo, and snack wrappers and plastic drink bottles in San Pablo.
Through letters to one another, the students shared their revelations across borders…
“I learned that it’s important to not throw garbage in our water, in our river. And in the future, I want to live near an ocean that’s always clean.”
“My solution for the future is that we never throw garbage on the street and that we care for the environment.”
Living Shoreline Initiative
On a field trip to Half Moon Bay, students from San Francisco’s George Washington High hung out at at the tide pools, turning over rocks, and examining the life forms hiding there. They were there as part of TWP’s Wild! Oysters, a special marine ecology program that taught 190 students from eight classrooms in around the Bay last school year.
This was one of two field trips for the high school students, who first received 17 hours of classroom time. Walking back to the buses, Program Manager Christopher Lim talked to a shy young man who had stuck to himself and not said much all day.
“Would you come back?” Lim asked him.
“Maybe,” said the young man evasively.
Lim tried again. “Would you bring your friends or family here?”
“Maybe…,” said the young man. And then he added, “But I would definitely bring my kids.”For Lim, the young man’s response is the answer for for why TWP’s programs are so important. “We’re trying to inspire environmental stewards,” Lim said. “To know that this kid wants to share the Bay with future generations is a big deal to me.”
For the past two-and-a-half years, staff and volunteers have surveyed baby oyster populations at seven sites around the Bay. Setting their alarms for the wee morning hours, they arrived between 5am and 7am, pulled on wet suits and waded into the cold waters of the Berkeley Marina, Tiburon, Oyster Point in South San Francisco, and three Richmond sites. They walked along the slippery rocks and collected bricks, which can serve as measuring tools for counting the number of baby oysters attached.
Over the years, volunteers have counted a total of 2,247 baby oysters (known as spats) at Point Pinole. Oyster Point was a close second, with 2,182 spats, and both sites outranked all the others by a lot, though more data will be needed to validate the trend. Luckily, despite the cold water and early start times, the the survey work is catching on. In August, about 20 enthusiastic volunteers showed up–the most in the history of the program.
Cleaner Streets for Oakland
Greening Urban Watersheds Program
Oakland Chinatown business owners are wiser about how to protect Lake Merritt, thanks to 3rd and 4th grade participants of TWP’s 32-week Riparian Lab after-school program.
As part of the Riparian Lab, students of Oakland’s Lincoln Elementary School learned that in the East Bay, indoor and outdoor sewage systems are different. Water used indoors, for washing hands, dishes, clothes, and flushing toilets, runs through a treatment plant. Meanwhile, dirty water outside flows untreated into storm drain gutters, and from there, goes straight into Lake Merritt and the Bay.
Guided by Miya Carsons from Cycles of Change, the students took a message of protection to Chinatown. In English, Mandarin and Cantonese, they spoke with about 40 Chinatown business owners. They told them, “Hey, that soapy water you push onto the sidewalk after cleaning your floors, that will kill the fish…and that cleaner you use on your windows, it’s toxic.”
“It was really touching seeing students in 3rd and 4th grade talk to business owners in their community, in their own language, and having the adults be really respectful and listen,” said Diana Dunn, Education Coordinator for The Watershed Project. As a result, twenty-six business owners signed a pledge to be “Bay Friendly.”