Make an Edible Aquifer

An aquifer is an underground layer of rock, gravel, sand or silt through which water can easily move. This water can be extracted for human consumption through the use of a water well. Aquifers provide natural filtration that helps to purify the groundwater flowing through them. However, not all contanimants are rendered harmless by this purification process, and some pollution can still be found in the groundwater, making it unsafe to drink.

You can make your own model of an aquifer from things found in your grocery store. To start you need the following:

Materials Needed

  • Blue/red food coloring
  • Vanilla ice cream
  • Clear soda pop (7-Up, Sprite, etc)
  • Small gummy bears, chocolate chips, crushed ice or other material to represent sand and gravel
  • Sprinkles
  • Drinking straws
  • Clear plastic cups
  • Ice cream scoop
  • Spoons

Activity Steps

  1. Fill a clear plastic cup 1/3 full with gummy bears, chocolate chips, or crushed ice. This represnts sand/gravel in your aquifer.
  2. Add enough soda to just cover the candy/ice.
  3. Add a layer of ice cream to serve as a “confining layer” over the water-filled aquifer.
  4. Then add more “sand/gravel” on top of the “confining layer.”
  5. Add a layer of sprinkled over the top to create the porous top layer (top soil).
  6. Now add the food coloring to the soda. The food coloring represents contamination. Watch what happens when it is poured on the top of the “aquifer.”
  7. Using a drinking straw, drill a well into the center of your aquifer.
  8. Slowly begin to pump the well by sucking on the straw. Watch the decline in the water table.
  9. Notice how the contaminants can get sucked into the well area and end up in the groundwater by leaking through the confining layer.
  10. Now recharge your aquifer by adding more soda which represents a rain shower.
  11. Eat and enjoy your aquifer!

Lesson adapeted from the Groundwater Foundation.

Make a Mini Water Cycle

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The water cycle, also known as the hydrological cycle, is the process in which water moves and changes on Earth. All the water on Earth, whether it’s the water that we drink, the water that sustains the ocean or the rain that falls from the sky, has been around for millions of years. Because of the atmosphere, water molecules are trapped here on Earth for us, and all other life forms, to drink, use and enjoy.

There are three states of water: solid (ice), liquid and gas (water vapor). Water changes from one state to another because of the application of heat.  As you heat up the molecules in ice, it melts and becomes water and eventually evaporates into water vapor. Removing that heat causes water to condense and reverse this process.  This is the water cycle.

You can easily make your own mini water cycle at home using just a few materials. Here is what you need:

  • 1 plastic tub
  • 1 plastic cup
  • 1 small rock or marble
  • 1 roll of cling wrap plastic (or similar)
  • 1 roll of wide tape to seal the still
  • Water_cycleSoil or sand
  • 1 – 2  cups of water

Directions:

  1. Add your soil to the plastic tub.
  2. Position the plastic cup in the center of the tub, partially submerged in the soil for stability.
  3. Sprinkle 1-2 cups of water over the soil.
  4. Seal the tub with cling wrap and tape. Add a pebble or large marble directly above the cup forming a depression in the cling wrap.
  5. Place the solar still in a still and sunny location. Observe your still throughout the day. What do you notice happening?

Follow-up Questions:

  1. How does water get into the oceans?
  2. What are clouds? What are clouds made of?
  3. How does rain form?

Did you build your own water cycle? We want to see! Send us a picture at nia@sdcoastkeeper.org and be featured on our blog.

Are you a teacher who wants to use environmental education lessons in your classroom? Checkout Project SWELL: a school-based science curriculum that teaches children about the importance of the San Diego region’s waterways. The project helps teachers empower students about how to understand and improve the condition of San Diego waterways.

We Receive $14,000 Grant to Expand Project SWELL in Oceanside

05.07-press-event-students-

What do you remember about your elementary school science classes?

I remember sitting in class, reading textbooks while the teacher droned on and on about some obscure science concept that was dense, dry and so distant from my life that I could never really envision employing the concepts that I had learned. For many students, this is their day-to-day interaction with science.

But for students in Oceanside, it doesn’t have to be.

Thanks to a $14,000 grant, awarded to San Diego Coastkeeper by The Oceanside Charitable Foundation, an affiliate of The San Diego Foundation with support from The McLaughlin Endowment Fund of The San Diego Foundation, more students will get access to engaging lessons in science and environmental education through Project SWELL. The funding will allow Project SWELL to be implemented in 5th and 6th grade classes throughout Oceanside Unified School District, provide teachers with professional development, online access to the curriculum and materials for hands-on learning.

 

Project SWELL was developed through a ground-breaking partnership between San Diego CoastkeeperThink Blue (the City of San Diego) and the San Diego Unified School District. Project SWELL is a school-based science curriculum that teaches children about the importance of the San Diego region’s waterways using hands-on engagement and inquiry based learning. The project helps teachers empower students to understand and improve the condition of San Diego County waterways. The Project SWELL curriculum is customized to the City of Oceanside and helps students to address the distinct challenges that their city faces when dealing with water supply, quality and conservation issues and gives the students tangible ways to address these issues and impact their community ‘right now.’

Each SWELL unit of study:

  • Educates students about local watersheds
  • Promotes stewardship for our natural environment
  • Aligns with California State Science Standards

Currently, over 160,000 students (grades K, 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6) in San Diego Unified School district and over 1,600 students (grade 5) in Oceanside Unified School District have access to Project SWELL in their classroom. With this additional funding, Project SWELL will expand to include 6th grade, another 1,600 students.

Are you a teacher who wants to use Project SWELL in your classroom? Learn more at www.projectswell.org.

Build Your Own Watershed

A watershed is an area of land where all the water from rainfall, streams and rivers drain to a common outlet like reservoirs, bays or larger rivers. It is the ecosystem in which we all live including the wildlife, surface waters and, of course, our neighborhoods. Sometimes, the word watershed is used synonymously with drainage basin or catchment. In San Diego County, we have a total of eleven watersheds.

Try this experiment: build your own watershed at home and explore how water flows across the land.

San Diego Watersheds

You will need the following:

  • 1 large tupperware container or roasting pan
  • Scrap paper or newspaper
  • Rocks of various sizes
  • White trash bag
  • Cup of cocoa mix, iced tea mix, or other flavored drink mix (to represent chemicals)
  • 1 spray bottle filled with blue-colored water

Procedure:

  1. Use the paper and rocks to make an uneven surface in you container. You are constructing the topography of your watershed.
  2. Cover your topography with the white trash bag; be sure to tuck in the edges under the rocks. It might be helpful to use some rocks to hold the trash bag in place.
  3. Spray your watershed with the blue-colored water to simulate precipitation. Where does the water in the watershed flow?
  4. Sprinkle the cocoa mix over part of your model. The cocoa mix represents chemical runoff that is polluting the watershed. Spray the model again and watch how the contaminated water travels through the watershed.

 

 

Follow-up Questions:

  1. What are some things that can pollute our watershed?
  2. How can we reduce the impact that we have on the watershed and the environment?

Did you build your own watershed? We want to see! Send us a picture at nia@sdcoastkeeper.org and be featured on our blog.

Are you a teacher who wants to use environmental education lessons in your classroom? Checkout Project SWELL: a school-based science curriculum that teaches children about the importance of the San Diego region’s waterways. Project SWELL helps teachers empower students about how to understand and improve the condition of San Diego waterways. For more information go to www.projectswell.org.

Photo credit: Shannon Switzer

The Benefit of Doing the Right Thing

Teaching science for over 5 years, I found we have ingrained conservation into the minds of our students. From third grade to college, they can rattle off a laundry list of ways they can make a positive impact on our environment. Things like turning off the tap when brushing your teeth, taking shorter showers, biking to work, taking reusable bags shopping, turning off the lights when you leave a room–it’s music to an environmental educator’s ears. After a few months of hearing this list repeated over and over again, my questions changed from “what can we do?” to “how does it help us?”

We need to conserve our water. Phrases such as “it’s bad to waste electricity, we can’t use up all of our oil, we want clean beaches” are not bad but not exactly convincing either. For my third graders, I’ll let it slide. But I’m going to press the rest to think harder. We know these actions are good for the environment. But what about us? Where is the immediate return on our sacrifices and investments?

It turns out that environmental responsibility is economic responsibility.

I recently moved from Miami where I had two roommates. I diligently unplugged electronics not being used, took short showers, washed my clothes in cold water and turned off the lights when someone left them on. It was a running joke that I was the only one of the roommates who did this. I took it in stride as our electric bill for three of us was under $70 per month. I moved away in June, but the last electric bill was sent to me by mistake. With only two living in the same apartment and no one turning everything off, the bill was almost $25 more.

If $25 really isn’t a big deal to you then multiply by 12. If you still can’t think of anything you’d rather spend $300 on, get in touch with me. I’ve got some great suggestions.

At San Diego Coastkeeper, we are focused on protecting our water resources in San Diego County. In exchange for your short showers, running full loads of laundry and watering the lawn at night, you get a nice discount on your next water bill. Heating the water adds to your electric bill, so consider that next time you find yourself lingering in the scalding hot shower to ponder the meaning of life.

Just how much are you going to save with environmental responsibility? It costs about 15 cents for a 10 minute shower in San Diego. One shower a day makes it $50 a year. If San Diego water rates increase by the projected 50% in the next 5 years, one person could be looking at nearly $75 a year. That’s just for showers and not counting the cost to heat the water.

Taking a 5 minute shower (enough time to belt out two of your favorite songs in their entirety) would reduce the cost to below $40 for the year. Even with the project price increase.

So why should we care about doing the right thing? Aside from being an environmentally responsible action, it is more often than not better for your wallet. Each time we cut our reliance on a resource, from oil to water, we minimize demand and the reward falls to you. And it’s not just water and electricity. It extends to our fuel consumption, urban planning and development, and single-use plastics. Changing our behavior to do what’s best environmentally isn’t easy, but it just might benefit you quicker than you think.

Not to mention, it feels pretty good to do the right thing.

Ocean Day Highlights Need for Leadership in Sacramento

oceansdaySan Diego Coastkeeper recently led the charge at the fifth annual Ocean Day held at the California State capitol building in Sacramento. The mission of Ocean Day is to “convey a unified message from the ocean and coastal community that educates and inspires decision makers to work toward effective solutions aimed at protecting and restoring California’s iconic ocean and coastline.” San Diego Coastkeeper served on the event’s steering (planning) committee, which was led by Environment California.

Throughout the day, advocates held meetings with members of the California State Senate and Assembly, and their staff, to discuss current ocean issues and urge the members’ direct action on upcoming bills. We discussed upcoming legislation which threatens to weaken the Coastal Act and streamline desaliniation permitting, as well as positive legislation supporting adaptation to climate change, riding our beaches of plastic foam, and listing of the leatherback sea turtle as California’s official marine reptile. The delegation from San Diego was comprised of representatives of San Diego Coastkeeper and the San Diego Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, as well as Master’s and Ph.D. students from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

The welcoming ceremony for participants featured ocean champion Assemblywoman Julia Brownley. The ceremony was followed by an educational event on the capitol lawn highlighting the value of our oceans to both California’s economy and lifestyle. Various organizations, from aquariums to surf companies and research institutes to activist groups, were represented. The California State University Council on Ocean Affairs, Science & Technology (COAST) hosted a luncheon featuring presentations about Tracking Contaminates of Emerging Concern in California. To close the day, the Monterey Bay Aquarium hosted a reception featuring sustainable seafood at the Sutter Club to celebrate California’s ocean and coast as well as to honor those who have helped to advance ocean health in our state. Governor Jerry Brown and other dignitaries spoke about the importance of protecting the future of our oceans, and colleagues from like-minded organizations who often work remotely were able to meet in person to discuss challenges and successes in the ocean conservation field.

Published in Marine Conservation

SWELL is picking up in San Diego Unified

Project SWELL (Stewardship: Water Education for Lifelong Leadership) is getting a lot of attention from San Diego Unified School District elementary teachers after last week’s professional development workshops. Targeting K, 1st, and 6th grade teachers, the workshops were well attended with 47 teachers learning the curriculum, many for the first time. If all these teachers implement SWELL, then about 1,400 more elementary students will learn about local water issues in their classrooms this year.

In a post-workshop survey, all teachers rated the workshop as very well-organized and would recommend the workshop to other teachers. Perhaps it had something to do with the sandwiches and cookies provided after a long day of teaching, thanks to generous donors to Project SWELL through Coastkeeper. Or the gift packs and reusable water bottles from Project SWELL partners City of San Diego Think Blue. More likely, it has to do with the thoughtfulness and care put into the creation of the curriculum. Project SWELL was created for teachers by teachers, and it’s easy for teachers to squeeze in the hands-on lessons as part of their regular science curriculum.

The trainings are a great way to share news and new developments with the SWELL program, especially recent updates to the SWELL website and a tutorial of how to access the supplemental curriculum materials (maps, pictures, and graphics) as part of a password protected section of that site. SWELL is adapting quickly to be applicable in the 21st century classroom with smartboards, notebooks, and ipads!

Coastkeeper loves interacting with the teachers who make water education a priority in their classrooms. We took a few videos of the teachers after the workshops to learn more about their motivation and desire to teach Project SWELL lessons. Enjoy!

Victory for San Diego Bay

dsc00795-sThere’s still hope for a clean San Diego Bay.

The San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board today ordered those responsible for polluting San Diego Bay to clean up their mess. The order directs shipyards NASSCO and BAE, the Navy, SDG&E, the City of San Diego, and the Port of San Diego to dredge a small portion of the 60-acre shipyard site south of the Coronado Bay Bridge to remove the worst of the pollution hot-spots caused by decades of shipbuilding, industrial activity and stormwater runoff.

This is a huge victory for Coastkeeper and Environmental Health Coalition and the community members we represent. The Regional Board has been considering taking action for more than 20 years. Dozens of staff members and volunteers from San Diego Coastkeeper and EHC have devoted thousands of hours over the past two decades to get a cleanup order adopted.

This victory belongs to all of us.

Perhaps the most difficult part of the struggle was the huge amount of time and resources it took to stand on equal footing with the shipyards flush with cash and an army of well-paid attorneys. I honestly believe their strategy was to try to overwhelm us to get us to give up and go away.

Thanks to your support and the support of our generous funders, we were able to stick it out and ultimately achieve a victory.

I’m confident that without Coastkeeper’s and EHC’s participation, the cleanup would be much worse–or possibly non-existent. If you’re impressed with what we have achieved here, please support us so that we can continue to fight the good fight and win important victories for San Diegans and our environment.

The Butcher, the Baker, the Clean Water Maker

 

Yesterday, I toured San Diego Bay with the CEO of Stone Brewing Company (soon to be a neighbor in NTC Promenade) and the developer of what will become a new LEED certified hotel on Harbor Island. Tuesday I attended The Maritime Alliance awards dinner where I sat with Slow Food Urban San Diego to hear Dr. Sylvia Earle talk about our Planet Ocean. And tomorrow I’m off to meet the new community relations director of REI. It’s been one of those weeks that I love.
 
A local beer company, a developer, a maritime technology group and an outdoor recreation company…it’s a week that makes me think about collaboration. According to the expert opinion of Wikipedia (link), collaboration means working together to achieve shared goals. Collaboration does not mean convenient partnership. It means communicating and sharing knowledge and building consensus to achieve an outcome that might not otherwise become reality. San Diego Coastkeeper received the Maritime Alliance award for sustainable seafood to recognize our soon-to-be-launched webpage that tells people where to find seafood that they can eat with a clear conscience.
 
Why would Coastkeeper get into the web page game? We want people to make choices about eating seafood that leads to yummy dinner and also doesn’t harm our ocean life. But when we started to think about all the ways to spread the word, we realized that we had nowhere to point them to get the answers they would need. Seafood Watch provides guidelines about what to eat. I have the app on my phone. I know what to buy, but where to find happy fish at stores and restaurants in San Diego remains a black hole.
 
So we set out to fill the need. Our first step forward caused us to take a step back. We had to define sustainable seafood. Local? From robust wild fisheries? Environmentally friendly aquaculture? We talked to fishermen, chefs, retailers and others, including the Fisherman’s Working Group, who also received an award from The Maritime Alliance. (The award was for alliance building. Yep: collaboration.) And then we kept talking until we came up with a definition that made sense for San Diego. You’ll see it when the web page launches. Have thoughts about this? Join the conversation with a comment below at our Twitter feed (@sd_coastkeeper) on Facebook or just give us a call at 619-758-7743.

Yesterday, I toured San Diego Bay with the CEO of Stone Brewing Company (soon to be a neighbor in NTC Promenade) and the developer of what will become a new LEED-certified hotel on Harbor Island. Tuesday I attended The Maritime Alliance awards dinner where I sat with Slow Food Urban San Diego to hear Dr. Sylvia Earle talk about our Planet Ocean. And tomorrow I’m off to meet the new community relations director of REI. It’s been one of those weeks that I love.

A local beer company, a developer, a maritime technology group and an outdoor recreation company…it’s a week that makes me think about collaboration. According to the expert opinion of Wikipedia, collaboration means working together to achieve shared goals. Collaboration does not mean convenient partnership. It means communicating and sharing knowledge and building consensus to achieve an outcome that might not otherwise become reality. San Diego Coastkeeper received the Maritime Alliance award for sustainable seafood to recognize our soon-to-be-launched webpage that tells people where to find seafood that they can eat with a clear conscience.

Why would Coastkeeper get into the web page game? We want people to make choices about eating seafood that leads to yummy dinner and also doesn’t harm our ocean life. But when we started to think about all the ways to spread the word, we realized that we had nowhere to point them to get the answers they would need. Seafood Watch provides guidelines about what to eat. I have the app on my phone. I know what to buy, but where to find happy fish at stores and restaurants in San Diego remains a black hole.

So we set out to fill the need. Our first step forward caused us to take a step back. We had to define sustainable seafood. Local? From robust wild fisheries? Environmentally friendly aquaculture? We talked to fishermen, chefs, retailers and others, including the Fisherman’s Working Group, who also received an award from The Maritime Alliance. (The award was for alliance building. Yep: collaboration.) And then we kept talking until we came up with a definition that made sense for San Diego. You’ll see it when the web page launches. Have thoughts about this? Join the conversation with a comment below at our Twitter feed (@sd_coastkeeper) on Facebook or just give us a call at 619-758-7743.

 

Teaching Teachers to Teach SWELL

There are many ways to approach environmental education. One (and in my view, the most important) is to ensure students have opportunities to see, touch, smell and taste Mother Nature while hiking, swimming or participating in an outdoor activity. Another method is to bring guest speakers into the classroom to entertain students and teach them about animals, plants, watersheds or some other engaging topic. The model of Project SWELL (Stewardship: Water Education for Lifelong Leadership) is unique and effective: it provides hands on activity kits to classrooms and trains teachers to educate about the local aquatic environment as part of their science curriculum. Lessons actively involve students in learning about water supply and conservation, pollution prevention, and the local coastal habitat and wildlife, while reinforcing classroom principles such as the scientific method.

In early November, Project SWELL partners City of San Diego Storm Water & Transportation Department – Think Blue, San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) and San Diego Coastkeeper joined forces to offer professional development workshops for elementary teachers in 2nd, 4th, 5th and 6th grades. The response from the workshops was overwhelmingly positive and while most teachers were new to SWELL, a few returning teachers came to refresh and re-engage with the program. A fourth grade teacher from Edison Elementary School, Rebecca Brown, took a moment to share her experiences with SWELL in the video on the left.

 

According to a recent study, educators in Los Angeles are spending less time teaching science and are receiving less training to do so. Teachers across the country are pressed for time, balancing language and math testing requirements with special needs students and second language learners. We, San Diegans, often insist that we have very little in common with Los Angeles, but the SDUSD is the second largest school district in the state (16th in the nation) and experiences many of the same woes as its big sister LA Unified. Yet a few SDUSD Board of Education Members believe strongly in the value of science in preparing tomorrow’s leaders and SDUSD science scores are above average when compared with the rest of the state. Thanks to the board and educator leadership, strong partnerships and generous donors, valuable programs like SWELL continue to thrive and train teachers even in periods of budget cuts.

Just like many students, many teachers love learning about science. And the more they feel fluent with the content, equipped with the materials to teach lessons, the more likely they are to pass along a love of learning science. Project SWELL trainings will continue each Spring and Fall for SDUSD teachers. Explore the recently revamped Project SWELL website for new developments, access to online curriculum for SDUSD teachers and contact us with any questions or suggestions.