By Juliana Gonzalez, Executive Director, The Watershed Project
The Watershed Project is getting ready to celebrate its 20th anniversary, and with that milestone comes the need to reflect both on the past and the future of the organization. We are looking forward to continuing to educate future environmental stewards and restoring our watersheds. Fostering grassroots movements and groups has been core to our strategy, because the energy and passion of volunteer groups is a pillar of any social movement.
The Watershed Project believes in educating for the future, and education has been another core element of our strategy from the beginning. We understand that it will take technology and innovation to build the cities of the future; cities and communities where green streets, green campuses, living shorelines, and healthy watersheds are managed to optimize sustainability, stewardship and ecosystem services. We believe that every elementary and high school student, including those from the most disadvantaged communities, should have a chance to learn about the environment of their local region. We hope that their experience with us will mark the beginning of a journey to become stewards of their local watersheds. Our elementary school programs are designed to work in partnership with classroom teachers. Our staff help train teachers and facilitate watershed education, service learning projects, and most importantly, watershed exploration, through field trips to local parks and restoration projects.
We take pride in offering some of the best structured service learning opportunities for high school and college students. All of our restoration projects are living outdoor classrooms, where scientific and natural exploration is encouraged. Our high school and college partner teachers integrate our environmental education units into their curriculum, allow us to co-teach with Next Generation Science Standards Curriculum, and bring us their students on journeys to the subtidal habitat, the creeks, the shoreline, or the local bioswales. We collaborate with local municipalities, parks and other stakeholders to design community-based watershed and greening projects. While we have three distinct service learning topics, all three are part of our holistic approach to creating a more sustainable community and watershed.
In our Greening Urban Watersheds program, we have built 2 large bioswales and 10 small rain gardens, planted 300 street trees, built 5 habitat gardens, and restored 5 reaches of creeks in West Contra Costa County, engaging close to 150 students and over 400 volunteers a year.
The Healthy Watersheds Program works to free our watershed of litter and pesticides. We have worked with 2 schools to bring them closer to zero waste. We work closely with many municipalities in their trash and litter reduction programs, and promote citizen monitoring activities to support zero waste initiatives to promote healthy oceans. This program engages over 2,000 volunteers and nearly 1,000 students a year.
And finally, in our Living Shorelines Program, we have built a wetland restoration project and an artificial oyster reef where we bring over 150 students and 50 volunteers a year, and provide critical habitat for native oysters.
In the future, we want to ensure that every teacher has access to our watershed education curriculum, service learning opportunities will be available for all students, and environmental and outdoor exploration will continue to be a source of inspiration for the future generation of environmental stewards. Today, more than ever, we need to educate innovators, scientists, engineers, educators, and community leaders who can help us dream, and build the cities and watersheds of the future.
Join in me in celebrating our accomplishments during 2015-16. Read our annual report and stay tuned for the celebration of our 20th year anniversary serving the San Francisco Bay in 2017.
The Watershed Project
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