Watershed Education 20 Years and Counting

Ms. Judith’s pre-Kindergarten class at Hoopa Elementary learned about the water cycle./Photos courtesy of the Americorps Watershed Stewardship Project.


It’s been twenty years since AmeriCorps Watershed Stewards Project members first stepped foot in local classrooms. Since that time, hundreds of students have been exposed to the “Real Science” curriculum, which focuses on watersheds issues and different topics involving salmon anatomy and their life cycle. This collaborative effort between the U.S. Forest Service, AmeriCorps, and the Klamath-Trinity Joint Unified School District places members in classrooms stretching from Pecwan, Hoopa, and Orleans, and grade levels from kindergarten to eighth grade.

This year’s members placed at the Orleans Ranger District, Carol Earnest and Sylvia Gwozdz, taught approximately 200 students in 12 different classrooms this year. After almost two decades of environmental education in local schools, many students have had members in their classrooms multiple years, and it shows. At Jack Norton School in Pecwan, students request certain activities and can easily rattle off the salmon life cycle. “It’s inspiring how much they know about their environment and how much they’ve taught us,” says Gwozdz, recalling a salmon anatomy lesson where kindergarteners of Hoopa Elementary told stories of family members cleaning salmon with them and learning what different internal parts were. “They’ve seen female salmon building redds and witnessed the seasonal cycles of river flows,” added Earnest.

This year, different elements were added into the curriculum to complement their strong foundation of watersheds and the natural world. For example, students learned about the greenhouse effect and how it might affect the local area in years to come, and analyzed real time flow data of the Klamath and Trinity Rivers from the U.S. Geological Survey. Students also learned about the food web and how different animals in the area interact and rely on each other. In addition, three fish tanks at Hoopa and Orleans Elementary were set up to raise steelhead trout, an ongoing project that will end with a release of the juvenile fish into Supply Creek in May.

WSP members will be back in classrooms again next year, continuing to teach future generations the importance of conserving, restoring, and enhancing our watersheds. The mission of the AmeriCorps Watershed Stewards Project (WSP) is to conserve, restore, and enhance anadromous watersheds for future generations by linking educationg with high-quality scientific practices. A special project of California Conservation Corps, WSP is sponsored by CaliforniaVolunteers and administerd by the Corporation for National and Community Service.

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April 15th, 2014

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