High Tech High Blog Series

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

High Tech High Blog Series: Blog 1 of 7

My eleventh grade class from High Tech High will begin publishing the results from our oceanic research project that uncovered water quality issues in San Diego and explored the public’s general knowledge of these issues. With the help of San Diego Coastkeeper® (Coastkeeper), we researched how different pollutants negatively affect the environment, conducted a survey of the general public and collected and tested water from six locations in San Diego. 

To Cut to the Chase: 

Bacteria: San Diego’s Favorite Canine-Friendly Beach is Clean

ResearchCH2M Hill water pollutants research

In groups the students researched topics related to water pollution. Each group documented information that they had gathered and shared their findings with the other student groups. Travis Pritchard, program manager at San Diego Coastkeeper (Coastkeeper) gave a presentation to the class about Coastkeeper’s research. The students also learned about how contaminants travel through the environment with a presentation from Kyle Winslow, who works for CH2M Hill.  

Water Testing

Each group of four students was assigned a site in San Diego County, to collect and test water samples. Each week a group of students traveled to the different locations to collect water samples. The samples were then taken back to Coastkeeper to begin fecal indicator. After a 24 hour incubation period, students returned to the lab to observe the samples and record the data.

water  testing ocean-beach research water quality


Using this information gathered from the research and water testing phases, the students created a survey to gauge the public’s awareness of the environment. The students conducted the survey with over 1,100 people from San Diego. The survey results were presented to the public during a school exhibition.


With the information from the research, water testing and survey phases, each group of students created an infographic about their chosen water contaminant. The infographics showcased the water testing data and survey results.
Fertilizer Pollution

Presentationsdive-club water quality research pollutant presentation

The students created PowerPoint presentations of the information gathered during the project. The presentations were presented to the public during a school exhibition at High Tech High. At the exhibition, visitors were able to learn and ask question about the project and the environment. A presentation and a survey was also conducted at a divers club meeting in San Diego.

Blog Series

As the project came to an end, the students documented their work by again partnering with Coastkeeper to create a blog series that would detail the project, research and their findings. 
To research and help prevent further pollution, a class of 50+ students from High Tech High school in Point Loma, California teamed up with San Diego Coastkeeper® to conduct the “Oceans Away Project,” a project designed to help inform the public of the consequences of their daily actions. 

Cigarettes: 10 Reasons Why We Should Change the Way We Dispose of Cigarette Butts

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

High Tech High Blog Series: Blog 2 of 7

Everyone knows cigarettes are harmful-smoking is hazardous to human health. An additonal problem is that people rarely realize just how large their impact on the environment can be (especially for our beaches and oceans). The following list comprises facts and figures that we researched.

cigarettes toxin water pollutantAn estimated 45.3 million people in the United States smoke cigarettes.

Cigarettes are 100 percent non-biodegradable.

An estimated 1.69 BILLION POUNDS of cigarette butts end up as litter worldwide every single year. That is a mind boggling amount of cigarette butts, and a large amount of them will end up in our oceans through urban runoff. When cigarettes are carelessly dropped on the ground rather than properly disposed of, they get washed into storm drains when it rains, which lead directly to the ocean.

To say it simply: Cigarette butts kill sea life-whether it is death by ingestion or from toxic chemicals leaking into the water.

Cigarette debris is responsible for the death of one million sea birds and 10,000 mammals every year. Cigarette waste has huge environmental effects. Effects so large that it is hard to even wrap your mind around.

In 2013, volunteers collected 157,098 items of debris from San Diego beaches. Of that 157,098, a whopping 37 percent of every piece of trash collected was cigarette butts. 

Cigarette butts are so toxic (they contain over 4,000 chemicals that can be released into the environment) that it has been recommended by the Cigarette Butt Advisory Group that they be placed on the list of hazardous waste.

Cigarettes contain toxic chemicals including arsenic, acetone, bleach, and nicotine.

cigarette toxin water pollutantPeople rarely realize that when they drop a cigarette butt on the ground far away from the beach, it can still end up in the ocean.

Cigarette butts are the most littered item in the United State and the entire world.

To research and help prevent further pollution, a class of 50+ students from High Tech High school in Point Loma, California teamed up with San Diego Coastkeeper® to conduct the “Oceans Away Project,” a project designed to help inform the public of the consequences of their daily actions.

Infographic: Cigarette Pollution

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

Cigarettes are not only harmful to humans, but to our environment as well. Often times, cigarette butts are improperly disposed of and washed into our oceans when it rains. Cigarettes are highly toxic to marine life, even in the smallest of doses. Ingesting or even being in cigarette contaminated water can kill marine animals, making this a serious problem that needs to be addressed.

Cigarette Infographic











Every Day Should Be Water Day

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper
environmental education san diegoAn April 17 U-T San Diego editorial, “Time to teach our kids where water comes from,” encourages our leaders to launch a California Water Awareness Day to prepare future generations to take on water supply challenges.
We believe our education system should integrate water awareness every day. 
When we teach children the importance of washing their hands before eating, we do not do this one day, we do it EVERY DAY.  As result, children make this part of their daily routine and the message—and its health benefit—lasts a lifetime. When we talk to kids about the environment—specifically the importance of water and where our water comes from—we also need to do it every day to ensure we develop mindful adults that carry this important message with them throughout a lifetime.
Water is an interdisciplinary topic that can be used as a teaching tool for reading, writing, science, history, art and math. Teachers and students should take advantage of the great water curricula available (California Education and the Environment Initiative curriculum, FOSS, Project WET, Waves, Wetlands, and Watersheds, and Project SWELL, just to name a few). 
SWELL 19 cropLaunched in 2003, Project SWELL (Stewardship: Water Education for Lifelong Leadership) curricula are now available for San Diego Unified School District K-6 and Oceanside Unified School District 5th and 6th grade classrooms. It includes thirty-six, standard-aligned lessons with a focus on San Diego’s regional waters. Hands-on lessons help students learn about our local aquatic animals and their habitats; our local watersheds, lakes and rivers; our water supply; and opportunities for water conservation and pollution prevention. Project SWELL is provided FREE through a partnership among San Diego Unified School District, Think Blue and San Diego Coastkeeper.
If we want future generations to be ready to take care of our resources and to thrive in the next generation of clean tech jobs, we need to prepare them now with the necessary skills. Water awareness is the first step to engage future leaders in sustainable water management. 
Let’s not stop at Water Awareness Day, but Water Awareness Every Day. 

More San Diego Teachers Are Getting SWELL!

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

environmental education san diegoProject SWELL has been busy preparing San Diego’s future leaders to understand the role of water in our region and in our future by preparing those who teach them to talk about the importance of the region’s waterways.  Last month, we partnered with the San Diego Unified School District and Think Blue for two free workshops for K-2nd and 4th-6th grade teachers.

As part of our efforts to promote environmental education and increase science knowledge and stewardship among San Diego children, both workshops and science SWELL kits were made available to 20 San Diego-area school teachers.  

As part of that process we heard from teachers regarding what they found most valuable about Project SWELL Professional Development workshops. We are always happy to get feedback that helps us to hone and further develop processes, lessons and other facets of the program.

The teachers who participated reported enjoying learning to use the Project SWELL kits, which include all the materials that their students need to learn Project SWELL curriculum. Teachers said the kits would both engage and reach their students.  Another highlight they mentioned was the background information about storm water pollution and pollution prevention that can be used to reinforce and support the curriculum.  

The teachers also had the opportunity to explore Project SWELL website and learn how teaching SWELL can help their students realize Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards.

Overwhelmingly and to our delight, teachers repeatedly reported that they liked to share ideas with other teachers  and learn all they can about our local habitats, pollution prevention and the importance of keeping our waters clean

Realizing that the website allowed them the opportunity to do both, the teachers were thrilled to find lessons and materials that help their students not only learned about our environment, but also develop the critical thinking skills young people  develop when engaging in hands-on science activities.

We were happy to see teachers getting SWELL for their classrooms because we know they are going to be teaching hundreds of student and preparing San Diego’s leaders of tomorrow to protect the environment! That is great news for the future of fishable, swimmable, drinkable waters.

If you want to participate in the next free workshop or want to get a SWELL kit for your classroom please contact Project SWELL at projectswell@sdcoastkeeper.org.

A special thanks our sponsors Subway in Kearny Mesa and Barons Market in Point Loma for providing refreshments for our dedicated teachers!

Educators Come Together to Discuss Science Curricula, Including Project Swell

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

San Diego Coastkeeper recently had the exciting opportunity to take part in the San Diego Science Educators Association conference. The conference serves as an opportunity for educators of all grade levels to explore new standards, gauge the impact these standards might have on their curricula,Jocelyn at SDSEA and learn tools to help bridge the gap between outdated and newly approved methodologies.

Because the California Department of Education recently adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) model, many science educators intimated that they were very anxious to discover the impact of these new standards on their lesson plans.  More than 500 educators came together to share ideas and collaborate on the goal of motivating and encouraging a love of science in their students.

Coastkeeper’s own Sandra Lebron hosted a 50 minute session entitled “Project SWELL’s Environmental Education Curriculum”, where she spotlighted techniques that both spark the scientist in students and improve their speaking, reading, writing, and math skills. She emphasized that students of all ages can be inspired to make changes when they recognize the environmental implications of human activities on our waterways. In providing young people this lesson, she suggested, we can empower and embolden a new community to protect San Diego’s waterways.

Project SWELL also had an opportunity to host a booth where we were happy to hear from many fans of the Project SWELL curriculum and have the chance to introduce the program to some who had not discovered it. In addition to workshops, there were also several other  science-related area businesses and organizations hosting booths, they included the Wild Animal Park, CPO Science, the Living Coast Discovery Center, and Lockheed Martin.

It was very interesting to see the wide array of techniques already available to assist educators in the shift to the Next Generation Science Standards; they ranged low tech solutions like simple paper and water, to the more high tech like tablet and other electronic tools.  If the energy in the conference was any indication, a lot of San Diego students will be buzzing about science soon. That could spell good things for fishable, swimmable, drinkable waters in San Diego!

Single Use Can Mean Permanent Harm

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

After every beach cleanup we are hit with ample evidence of the ubiquity of paper and plastic products in our everyday lives. It is quite clear that these products are everywhere we turn, sometimes in places they don’t belong like in our waterways and on our beaches. What isn’t necessarily as obvious are the wide variety of ways these products manifest themselves and the different impacts the use of each has on fishable, swimmable and drinkable waters.

Our choices in these products and in our choice of the businesses who use them can make a significant difference in our waterways. With this in mind, let’s explore some of the categories:

•    Biodegradable: “Claims that a product is “degradable,” “biodegradable” or “photodegradable” mean that the materials will break down and return to nature within a reasonably short time after customary disposal,” according to the Bureau of Consumer Protection.

•    Compostable: “’Compostable’ claims would be appropriate on products or packages that will break down, or become part of usable compost (for example, soil conditioning material or mulch), in a safe and timely manner in home compost piles,” according to Bureau of Consumer Protection. Many packaging materials promoted as compostable can only be composted in facilities with high temperature and humidity levels. This means that these materials must be separated from trash, collected and transported to the proper facilities. It is important to note that throwing “compostable” items in the landfill with the rest of our trash means they will not compost. Most cities do not offer these types of collection programs or composting facilities.

•    Pre-consumer recycled material: “…a waste product of a manufacturing process, diverted from the solid waste stream and not normally reused by industry during the original manufacturing process,” according to the Bureau of Consumer Protection.

•    Post-consumer recycled material: having been used and recycled for use in another consumer product.

•    Recyclable: “’Recyclable’ claims on labels and advertisements mean that the products can be collected, separated or recovered from the solid waste stream and used again, or reused in the manufacture or assembly of another package or product through an established recycling program,” according to the Bureau of Consumer Protection.

•    PLA (polylactic acid): resin made from corn starch, can be used in the manufacturing process of alternative packaging materials.

•    Bagasse: fibrous natural byproduct of sugarcane refinement, can be used in the manufacturing process of alternative packaging materials.

•    Styrene: an industrial chemical, one of the primary components of plastic foam, and has recently been listed as a carcinogen by the 12th Report on Carcinogens by the National Toxicology Program.

Inspired to make new choices? Learn more strategies to assure fishable, swimmable and drinkable waters by visiting our change your habits page.

Project SWELL Inspires Students & Teachers Alike

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

Project SWELL Making a WatershedWhen should you start your environmental education? No matter what your age, the answer is always right now! At a recent Project SWELL workshop, San Diego area 6th graders discovered that you are never too young to learn the dynamics of our local watersheds.

Environmental education has many goals, including engaging students in learning about the environment and creating a generation of citizens empowered to make environmentally responsible decisions. Project SWELL’s environmental science curriculum is designed to present hands-on, inquiry-based activities to engage students in scientific exploration, with the hope that those students leave with a sense of increased environmental awareness and responsibility. In particular, the project aims to raise consciousness about one of our most precious resources—water.

In addition to the excitement of learning to build their very own watersheds, these newly-minted environmentalist were quick to recognize that watersheds in urban environments like San Diego face a multitude of threats from a variety of everyday occurrences. Walking our pets, driving our cars, building construction and a variety of other activities all leave their mark, often in the form of pollutants.

Pollutants, the traces of human life on earth– pet waste, leaky cars/oil, car soap, detergents, trash, sewage and much more– usually end up in our waterways. The 6th graders discussed what pollutants were and how they entered our waters, followed by the fun of exploring their own ideas for solutions.

With common-sense and achievable solutions, such as “don’t litter” and “clean up after your pet,” the students proved that all of us can change our habits to help our waters.  

This group of young people made it clear that passing the torch of environmental consciousness is well worth it. Here is to a new generation of stewardship of our waterways.

2013 Reflections

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

Annual report main photo

We see ourselves in the water. When we play in the shorebreak, when we surf, when we kayak, when we swim, sail and fish. As we look at 2013, we look to the water to reflect a year’s worth of events, achievements, experiences and advocacy for fishable, swimmable, drinkable waters that allow us to live enjoyable lives.

Thank you to all who have made Coastkeeper a primary resource for and defender of San Diego’s waters. Please consider our 2013 Reflections a token of our appreciation for everything you did–something we truly prize. Enjoy.


Megan Baehrens
Executive Director

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Current Coordinates 2013 Making Waves 2013 

 Our Crew Plotting the Course 2013

Current Coordinates

Protecting our waters is quantifiable. From the financial gifts you donate to this environmental organization to San Diego beach cleanup data and results from our Water Quality Monitoring Program, these are the numbers we live by.

San Diego Coastkeeper’s legal, science, education and engagement experts work together to achieve our mission. In addition, and not reflected in program expenses, are the thousands of hours contributed by volunteers–from water quality monitors to cleanup participants to board members. Efficiency and impact are the hallmark of our efforts, and we sincerely thank the many individuals and organizations who make this work possible. (Note: Infographic based on preliminary year-end data.)

Coastkeeper Financials


Water Quality Monitoring in San Diego County

2013 wm data trans60


Watershed Average Score Score Range
Los Penasquitos Watershed 81 Good
San Diego Watershed 81 Good
San Luis Rey Watershed 79 Fair
San Dieguito Watershed 72 Fair
Carlsbad Watershed 64 Marginal
Sweetwater Watershed 64 Marginal
Pueblo Watershed 59 Marginal
Otay Watershed 49 Marginal
Tijuana Watershed 14 Poor


Beach Cleanups in San Diego County

2013 Beach Cleanups FINAL

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Making Waves 

This year we made serious headway on important issues and overcame obstacles on the road to improved water quality in San Diego. Our supporters, our volunteers, our partners– the people who believe in us– made these accomplishments possible. 

  1. Stormwater Permit: We advocated for a new stormwater permit at San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board meetings until it was approved in May. Our Environmental Law & Policy Clinic, along with dozens of community spokespeople, persuaded the Regional Board to approve a collaborative, watershed-based approach that continues today to include environmental stakeholders in the process.
  2. Coastal Champions: We honored long-time environmental hero Jim Puegh with our Lighthouse Lifetime Achievement award at this year’s Coastal Champions awards. This years awards were presented overlooking the Area of Special Biological Significance in La Jolla. We also celebrated the leadership of six other water rockstars who stand out in San Diego County for their dedication to protecting fishable, swimmable and drinkable waters.
  3. Camp Pendleton Sewage: We settled a two-year lawsuit with the Department of Defense to protect our military personnel by drastically reducing the number of sewage spills at Camp Pendleton and protecting our region’s waters. 
  4. Baja Beach Monitoring Program: We trained water quality organizations in Tijuana and the entire Baja California region to analyze and monitor local waters and utilize the Waterkeeper Swim Guide.
  5. Wastewater Recycling Approved: After years of collaboration with a broad-based coalition of community and business groups, we pushed the City of San Diego to approve wastewater recyling in San Diego. Once completed, this new purified drinking water will service up to 40 percent of the City of San Diego’s water needs.
  6. Science Education: We trained teachers in two San Diego County school districts to teach tens of thousands of students across with county using Project SWELL curriculum to enable children to learn environmental science while helping teachers understand and meet goals in the new Common Core Standards. As of 2013, the curriculum is available for download on the Project Swell Website.
  7. Internship Program: We launched our new environmental mentorship program, LEAP, in which high school students participated in our five-month education and mentorship program highlighting environmental concerns, initiatives and careers in San Diego. At their graduation ceremony, our LEAP students shared their projects that they will implement in their own communities.
  8. Faster Beach Water Quality Tests: Coastkeeper thanks San Diego County for listening to our ideas and then approving a pilot project to test faster beach water quality testing methods that could lead to results in a few hours, rather than 24 – 48 hours. 
  9. Binational Movement: Our political borders may stop at the U.S./Mexico fence, but our pollution problems and the people solutions do not. This year, we activated a dual-language, cross-border Coastal Cleanup Day event along the shoreline and border fence of Imperial Beach. We also united 100 students from Tijuana and Lakeside in a full day of hands-on environmental lessons for World Water Monitoring Day. 

The media felt our ripples in 2013, producing a full calendar of news. Click the headline to go to the story and dive into some of our most discussable moments this year.

1 finalWe created a smart-phone app, MPA Watch, to track activity in San Diego’s marine protected areas, as told in this UT San Diego story.

6We hosted cleanups with over thirty EPMG staff during National Volunteer Appreciation Week, as told in this San Diego County News story.
2We stood strong as a water advocate urging the City and responsible parties to move forward cleaning up decades of pollution in San Diego Bay, as told in this Voice of San Diego story. 7We tapped into one topic everyone wanted to know about and as a result, most media in San Diego joined us to find out if Mission Bay is gross, as captured by San Diego News.
3We startled San Diego with beach cleanup findings from 2012 and encouraged participation in 2013 opportunities, as told in this San Diego Gay & Lesbian News Story. 8We joined forces with one of San Diego’s most prominent attractions to de-clutter Mission Bay, as told in this SanDiegoVille story.
4We settled a lawsuit with Camp Pendleton to reduce excessive and harmful sewage spills, as captured by ABC 10 News. 9

We trail-blazed with an innovative water quality testing method, as shown in this KPBS video.

5We joined local environmental organizations in advocating for the stormwater permit at Regional Water Quality Board hearing as told by this San Diego Reader story.

10We continued to be a powerful resource tackling road-blocks in the cleanup of San Diego Bay, as told in this page one story in San Diego Downtown News.

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Our Crew

Over the past twelve months, San Diego Coastkeeper has continued to work hard, building and deploying a network of water lovers and advocates to help achieve our vision for swimmable, fishable, drinkable waters in San Diego County. Our board contributed strategic guidance, nuts and bolts expertise, and countless hours to our organization. In 2013 we welcomed several new board members, including business and finance experts, a four-time Olympic sailor, and a noted landscape architect who champions environmentally sensitive development. Coastkeeper’s board, staff, and members reflect the diversity of San Diego, working together because we understand and embrace the need to ensure adequate and clean water for all San Diegans. As we do every year and every day, we love our volunteers, who generously share their time and talent to empower us beyond the work we can accomplish alone. And we can’t say enough about our 2013 Coastal Champions, who swim an extra mile to make San Diego better for everyone.

It is our honor to present you with some of the most important people making our organization dependable and enabling us to do what we are passionate about.

With gratitude,

Jo Brooks
Board President

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Board Members


A few of our board members share thoughts on 2013 and hopes for 2014.

  • Jo Brooks, President
  • Sandor E. Kaupp, Vice President
  • Harriet Lazer, Vice President
  • Eleanor Musick, Secretary
  • Everett DeLano
  • George Yermanos
  • Glen Schmidt
  • Gregg Sadowsky
  • Lee Barken
  • Mark Reynolds
  • Micah Mitrosky
  • Stewart Halpern
  • Thank you to Sue Stewart, Susie Armstrong, Megan Lim and JP McNeill who completed their service terms in 2013.


volunteers 2013 AR

In 2013, Coaskteeper worked with 6,489 volunteers who participated in cleanups, water quality monitoring, lab work, trash assessments and an assortment of projects vital to the vision of turning San Diego into a regional leader for clean water. Find out how you can become part of the Coastkeeper volunteer family.

Coastal Champions

AwardeesAll 07

From left to right: 

  • Noah Thoron – Coastkeeper Volunteer of the Year, 2013
  • Josh Robinson – Water Wise
  • Russell Moore – Blue Tech
  • Jim Peugh – Lighthouse Lifetime Achievement, with his wife Barbara
  • Taya Lazootin – Runoff Rockstar
  • Sophie Silvestri of Port Tenants Association, Operation Clean Sweep – Find and Fix
  • Anonymous Resident – ASBS Special Recognition (not pictured)

And our proud Executive Director Megan Baehrens. 

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Plotting the Course 

When you peer over the edge of your stand-up paddleboard, boat or kayak into the water, what do you want to see reflected back at you? When our volunteers, supporters and community members look at San Diego’s waters, we want them to see Coastkeeper, an organization leading an aquatic renaissance and building a comprehensive understanding of our waters to change perception, inspire new habits and encourage an ecosystem on land that protects the one in our waters. This depiction of our organization would be painfully incomplete without you, our community members, volunteers, supporters, urban-runoff heroes, marine-debris guardians and water-lovers. It is because of you we have become a watchdog for San Diego’s swimmable, fishable, drinkable wates and can continue to do so.

San Diego Coastkeeper is supportable in many ways.

  • We are giveable. There are many ways to give to Coastkeeper, depending on which suits you best. Everything from a small donation to a corporate gift can ensure the waters you love are represented and protected now and for years to come.
  • We are sponsorable. Coastkeeper proudly partners with environmentally conscious and sustainable companies who want to connect with like-minded consumers supporting Coastkeeper. 
  • And we are very much volunteerable. Our volunteers make the world go ’round. Become part of the Coastkeeper team and sign up to volunteer. You’ll get a hands-on understanding of the waters we protect while meeting fun folks who care about keeping San Diego’s water clean as much as you do.

As we sail into 2014, we spot some of our most anticipated goals on the horizon. Our ambitions for the year are more reachable than ever. With all hands on deck, we will:

  • Launch our new bioassessment program to allow us to gather crucial information about pollutants in our water by examining the bug community.
  • Teach millenial leaders with our education and internship program to nurture tomorrow’s scientists and the next generation of clean water leaders. 
  • Expand Project SWELL to incorporate after-school programs, volunteers from other nonprofit organizations and train nearly one hundred teachers in San Diego County.
  • Implement MPA Watch, a new volunteer program to survey human activity in marine protected areas and improve our understanding of the interaction between San Diego’s on-land and underwater communities.
  • Collaborate with stormwater management programs to prevent urban runoff from ruining the county’s water quality, including in our new protected areas.
  • Move forward with a good implementation plan with the City of San Diego for using wastewater recycling as a water supply.
  • Train at least six graduate law students and close to one hundred new water quality monitoring volunteers.
  • Track Chollas Creek pollution to the biggest sources and reduce their impact on the creek. 

As we head into 2014, we strive to lead residents, businesses and governments to a new water ethic in San Diego County. This means an integrated water management plan that considers all of our water–drinking water, runoff and sewage—as a valuable resource. It requires working as a community to invest in innovative watershed-based management of stormwater pollution. And it demands that we make a dramatic change to reduce, reuse and recycle scarce drinkable water. Together, we’ll clean beaches and parks; track pollution with cutting edge monitoring and bring together a community that cares to enact solutions that matter. In 2014, San Diego County will embrace a new water ethic, and San Diego Coastkeeper leads that charge. 

Thank you.

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Project SWELL: 6th Grader Tested and Approved

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

Students and Standards

Back to school this year has brought lots of changes in how and what teachers teach their students and what tools students need for successful careers today. To help educational leaders better prepare students for the future, California recently adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and is implementing the new Common Core State Standards to outline what students should know and be able to do in each grade, in each subject.

Project Swell Classroom

Since 2010, 45 states have adopted these standards for English and Math. Students are expected to:

        • Articulate math problems
        • Demonstrate independence in reading, writing and speaking about complex text
        • Make sense of real life problems and perservere in solving them

What about Science and Environmental Education?

Can we use the environment as a “real life” example? Environmental educators will happily answer with a resounding YES!

Environmental education is crucial to student development and preparation for the world we live in. Hands-on environmental lessons give the students the tools to understand basic science concepts, such as local habitats and water pollution, while also incorporating other important subjects (Math, English and Language Arts) into the learning process simultaneously. Win-win, right?
Project swell 3

Project SWELL

Recently I visited a middle school to observe students learning with Project SWELL: A classroom curriculum for grades K-2 and 4-6 designed to incorporate all state standards while including environmental education with lessons on water science, pollution prevention and local habitats.

The lesson I observed asked students how they define pollution and what kind of pollutants we may find in our water bodies and watersheds. Students then received materials to design their own watershed in groups, giving them a new opportunity to create their own investigation, understand scientific concepts, explain these concepts, identify problems and solve them.

I was impressed to see how engaged the 6th grade students were with a watershed lesson from Project SWELL. After completion of the lesson, one 6th grade student told me that “science is cool!” Project SWELL instructor, Eileen Pritchard, was able to engage her students in science and teach about urban runoff, local watersheds and marine debris.

Project swell 2Teaching about their own backyard make students feel connected with the natural environment and develop a sense of stewardship, which hopefully will last a lifetime. The ocean is so close but it sometimes feels too far away to cause harm with our daily actions. We need to teach students this is not the case- they have enough power to clean up their local environment and it all starts with information and learning. We expect that the 21st century students take better care of the planet and make environmentally responsible decisions.

I certainly hope schools can continue to incorporate environmental education and better prepare students for the future and the world they live in, realizing that there really is no future without taking care of the planet!