By Phaela Peck and Nikki Muench
May means summer is fast approaching and it also signifies the end of The Watershed Project’s school year education programming. This year we served a record 1,606 students in Contra Costa, Alameda and San Francisco counties! Students in grades K-12 engaged in watershed education lessons and spent time in local parks. Climate Corps AmeriCorps Fellow Nikki Muench and Education Manager Phaela Peck developed and piloted new lessons, took hundreds of students out in nature and mentored Wild Oysters interns.
The Watershed Project’s education team’s goal is to develop the next generation of watershed stewards. We strive to connect local kids and communities to watersheds, nature and stewardship opportunities. Our programs are aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards and take into account current best practices in science and environmental education. We are committed to providing quality STEM experiences for all students. In 2016-2017, we concentrated on curriculum development, improving our programs and connections to science standards, while fore fronting access to nature and cultural relevancy.
Middle/High School Programs: Our middle school and high school programs focus on introducing older students to watersheds through data collection, direct service, design challenge and discussion. Through actual hands-on engagement in local parks and on-going projects, we believe that middle and high school students can be inspired to become leaders in watershed stewardship.
We completed the 8th year of our Wild Oysters program for middle school and high school students. This year we revised the in-class lessons to include a larger focus on the NGSS practice of Engaging in Argument from Evidence, with students examining evidence and participating in discussions about oysters. We took nine field trips and 278 students to our oyster reef at Point Pinole Regional Shoreline. Students monitored the oyster population and analyzed data from Fall 2016 and Spring 2017 to see how our record wet winter affected the oysters. Read more here to find out what they discovered and about our Wild Oysters interns’ experience supporting the program.
We piloted a brand-new Rains to Roots program with 52 high school students in Richmond. Through three in-class lessons and a service trip to the Richmond Greenway, students investigated the question: How can you restore natural function to urban watersheds? Students participated in two design challenges: designing their own rain garden and building a working rain harvesting model. We worked with a group of UC Engineering students to develop a bioswale design challenge lesson, which we also piloted successfully. The bioswale design will be integrated into the Rains to Roots program in 2017-2018. It was raining during each Rains to Roots lesson this year, and students were able to see firsthand the issues related to stormwater and runoff and take home a practical understanding of how these issues can be mitigated through green infrastructure.
Elementary Programs: Our elementary programs focus on introducing students to watersheds and providing opportunities for them to explore nature in their neighborhood. We believe that spending time outside in local parks is key to establishing a lifelong connection to nature and a desire to protect it.
This year we partnered with the 21st Century Community Learning Center at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education to run a Kids in Creeks environmental justice program called Everyone Needs Creeks. Students from two after school programs at San Pablo and Richmond schools learned about why animals, plants and people need creeks and participated in a creek exploration and cleanup program at Wanlass Park. In addition to this new partnership, we ran several Kids in Marshes programs, where students were able to use binoculars to observe the plethora of winter birds at Stege Marsh.
Our Bye Bye Basura program brought watershed and marine debris awareness to 365 students in San Pablo, Albany and Richmond. Students made connections to their own actions, created art for their community and wrote letters to students in Manzanillo, Mexico about what they learned about marine debris and their field trip experiences.
We continued our efforts to help Fairmont Elementary become a zero waste school by providing watershed and science education programming for nearly all classes and field trips for 7 classes. Through these lessons and experience we believe we are helping students understand why and how they can support the waste management goals and school greening efforts.
We look forward to our summer Riparian Lab offerings at local community centers, as well as adding watershed resources for teachers to our brand new website.
All in all, it’s been an excellent 20th anniversary year!