Watershed Ocean's Week
In 2009 WDF started Ocean's Week, a program directly in the classroom of local San Mateo Coastside schools. Classes are able to "build a watershed" with different materials, fabrics, and pictures.
Students brainstorm stories about pollution entering the watershed and add simulated pollutants into a large clear tub of water the surface of which represents the storm drain while the bottom represents the ocean. Students come to understand that everything lives in a watershed and can see the cumulative effects pollution has on our local creeks and the ocean.
Watershed on Wheels (WOW) Bus
Currently, our work in progress is the Watershed on Wheels bus (WOW bus). We plan to renovate the interior of a bus to include cabinetry, lab tables, benches, and sinks as a working space for high school and middle school students to experiment, discover and research. The WOW bus will include water testing equipment, microscopes, computers, and monitors.
It will allow students access to technology and equipment not found in most schools. This will promote the understanding of watershed science and tangible pollution prevention solutions by mirroring techniques used in commercial laboratories.
On the outside of the bus, awnings will be attached to protect folding tables providing additional student working space. Classes will cycle through different stations both inside and outside of the bus. Small student groups will permit students to receive hands-on, quality scientific education on watershed and marine ecology.
The sad fact is that most upper grade schools are not able to leave school grounds due to class timing, lack of infrastructure and transportation while the lack of money and liability that school districts face create further obstacles. In addition there have been severe cut-backs on field trips and active science in the classroom. Schools are lacking in science curriculum, methodology and apparatus for students to achieve and excel in California Content Standards. The WOW Bus will reach more schools including low economic and demographically diverse areas that have been hit hardest with lack of funding.
Programs using the bus will educate several classes in one day. This provides an efficient, cost effective and exciting way to teach the upper grade levels. Our model of a traveling laboratory will have a minimal carbon footprint with travel being greatly reduced, yet students will gain skills and knowledge through an impressive hands-on program.
Watershed Investigators - 5th grade program
Part 1: In-class visit as an introduction to watershed ecology. Staff from WDF will go into the classroom and introduce watershed ecology, storm drains, non-point source pollution, and pollution prevention. They will then accompany students who will walk around the school looking at the storm drains, collecting and tallying trash, and connecting the school with the larger watershed through a mapping activity.
Part 2: Field trip to Fitzgerald Marine Reserve and Moss Beach Ranch. The FMR offers the opportunity for the students to learn about the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, resident wildlife (including harbor seal colonies) and the impacts of water quality on the delicate marine life found in the intertidal zone. Rangers explain how human activities affect the Reserve, including storm drain runoff (from both agriculture and urban/residential areas), ground water, plastics/litter and the importance of properly disposing of certain hazardous items (used car oil, pesticides, etc). The reserve is a perfect combination with MBR for the field trip allowing the students to experience different segments of the San Vicente Watershed.
At MBR, students will investigate creek ecology and how the creek is involved in the greater watershed. The WDF will lead water quality monitoring using tools and techniques mirroring professional laboratories testing for microbiology. During their field visit students gain applied science skills and conduct meaningful investigations using scientific equipment not found in most school classrooms. The riparian corridor at MBR is a wonderful tool in educating the students about land uses and sustainability. They have the opportunity to learn about best management practices including the ongoing monitoring project happening at the ranch as well as erosion control and restoration projects. Students observe the natural geology of the land, including decomposed granite, silt and sediment in the creek. They explore native and invasive vegetation in the riparian corridor. It is an ideal location where students can view the coastal landscape and residential development along the hills, creek and riparian zone in our community. The field trip also includes many hands-on activities such as, Watershed in a Box and the Non-Point Source Pollution Enviroscape model.
Part 3: Field trip to a salt water tidal marsh. During this second field trip, students are able to explore an important part of the watershed, the salt tidal marsh. They will examine shore birds through binoculars, learn about marsh ecology, the importance of marshes, and be involved in a beach cleanup. During the beach cleanup, students will tally and weigh trash collected and see the impacts of their hands-on stewardship.
Part 4: Webs under Waves program offered in the classroom. Through a partnership with Gulf of Farallones National Marine Sanctuary School Programs, GOF education specialists will lead classes in an exploration of the food webs of the central California coastal marine environment, teach students about the habitats of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and show students what they can do to help protect the marine environment.
Part 5: Wrap up and Outreach. This final part of the program will give students the opportunity to examine cultured samples of water setup on the field trip and overview all information they collected on the San Vicente watershed through the multiple field trip components. The WDF staff also leads a pollution/trash timeline activity which links with the beach cleanup component of the tidal marsh field trip. As a final wrap up, the class will decide on an outreach project and begin work with the assistance of their teacher on educating their local community on urban runoff issues and watershed stewardship. Examples of outreach projects we have done with other classes include creating a poster campaign around the school, creating bookmarks for the local library, bringing handwritten letters and pamphlets to family members, and expanding data collected on field trips into a science fair project at the school.
Part 1: In-class visit as an introduction to watershed ecology. Students will investigate watershed maps; get a greater awareness of their watershed and how their neighborhood and community are a part of the watershed. The visit will be an introduction to scientific process and investigation concepts to be led by staff of WDF with aid of a local scientist from San Mateo County as a guest speaker. Students will be guided to develop a hypothesis based on the 5th grade understanding of runoff and pollution. By the end of the multiple visit program, they will be able to support or refute it based on their experiments and data collection.
Part 2: Field trip. During this full-day field trip, the 7th grade students will be divided into two teams and will investigate two different sites and watersheds. At each site the students will do ecosystem monitoring for Macroinverterbrate populations, they will be given kits with tools including microscopes, viewers, nets and Petri dishes, dichotomous keys and field guides. Students will also assess water quality for seven different parameters (nitrates, phosphates, pH, temperature, turbidity, salinity and dissolved oxygen) using citizen monitoring techniques. Sites and watersheds will offer different perspectives on land use and human impacts for the students to explore and investigate their hypothesis.
Part 3: Shoreline Field Trip. The students will explore benthic invertebrates, plankton, and hydrology. Students will use real oceanographic equipment at their stations to take a "mud grab" and find the invertebrates that live at the bottom of the bay, use a large beach net or "seine" to collect fish for examination. We will focus on the impacts of plastics and litter on the marine sanctuary and how a student can play a positive role in reduction and pollution prevention.
Part 4: Science at Sea program offered in the classroom. Through a partnership with Gulf of Farallones National Marine Sanctuary School Programs, students will get a glimpse of a marine scientist's life at sea, charting and planning the journey, data collection and analysis, and how it all comes together to help better inform ocean policy makers.
Part 5: Wrap up and Outreach. This final part of the program will help Watershed Discovery staff evaluate the program by giving the students the post survey. It will also wrap up questions, data and the program as a whole. The class will decide on an outreach project and begin work with the assistance of their teacher on educating their local community on urban runoff issues and watershed stewardship. Staff from WDF will assist the classes to take on larger outreach projects that will include technology and science methodology. For example: students write articles and post data from their field trip experience on the school website.
Custom Watershed Programs
In addition to its own in-house programs WDF also consults with partner organizations to develop and/or deliver customised workshops and field trips. WDF joined in programming with several other watershed agencies and groups including the University of California Cooperative: 4H Division, Marine Science Institute, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, and California State Parks.
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