Before starting at Coastkeeper, I spent a few years as a teacher. From 3rd-12th grade, teaching science is frequently an uphill battle. Sadly, the majority of students in middle and high school simply don’t have any connection to science. Without any reason to care about science, it’s incredibly difficult for students to engage.
Hands-on learning became critical for my students. Turning science into something that they can see, do, touch, or even change made a remarkable impact on their subject comprehension.
La Jolla Shores is special to our San Diego coastline. Set along an Area of Special Biological Significance and the Matlahuyal marine protected area (MPA), the water quality, marine life, and habitat are incredibly important to protect. Pressures from human activity, both on and offshore, can pose threats to these coastal resources. High Tech High students had the chance this week to do their part in protecting them, but also learn more about why they’re so important.
Along the coast, students worked in groups to collect marine debris and document activity within the MPA. Testing out the web-based app developed by UCSD, students recorded observations of human activity, helping Coastkeeper and other groups in San Diego identify trends in human use and potentially effectiveness of MPA regulations. While students learned about MPAs, they were able to take an active part in their assessment, contributing to science and policy that impacts us here in San Diego.
Volunteering helped make our coastline a little cleaner, but let students see where runoff goes, actually count how many pollutants we're producing and think about their impacts, while seeing an actual change in their environment. By making a positive impact in their community, science and environmental issues become a little more personal. For so many students, that connection is what drives their passion in science and I am thrilled to help them find it through service learning activities.
Another group set out on a “Pollution Patrol” of La Jolla Shores, sweeping nearly every street west of La Jolla Shores Drive and identifying potential pollution issues. Their biggest concern? Cigarette butts. In just an hour, students collected over 665 cigarette butts from the area, with most found in streets near stores. Students that morning were shocked by what they were finding in an area San Diegan’s value for its pristine beauty and ecological structure.
We recycle lots of things— plastic bottles, aluminum cans, paper, styrofoam, etc. But did you know that you could also recycle water? Recycling water is possible and very beneficial to operating your home in a water-efficient manner. Here are two different and cost-effective ways to recycle water in your home:
One way you can recycle is by reusing graywater. Graywater is the water from your bathrooms sinks, showers, tubs, and washing machines. Often times, it contains traces of dirt, food, hair, grease, and cleaning products. Although it appears “dirty,” graywater can be recycled from your home and applied to your landscape in a water-efficient manner. Because graywater contains anaerobic bacteria, it isn’t ideal for the lawn or vegetable gardens. However, graywater does work great when you spray or flood around plants such as fruit trees and tomatoes.
According to Brook Sarsons, founder and owner of H2OME, "55 percent of our water usage is for residential use, and of that, 60 to 65 percent is used on landscaping." Typical fruit trees use up to 35 to 50 gallons a week, and with a laundry-to-landscape system that recycles graywater, you can save up to 17 gallons of water a day. Sarsons also states that establishing 365 laundry-to-landscape systems would save over two million gallons of water per year.
Let’s face it: maintaining a lawn can be expensive. A 500-sq ft lawn requires 50 inches of water per year: that’s over 13,000 gallons of water. Along with graywater, a second way to drastically cut your water usage is through harvesting rainwater. You can harvest rain off the roof, into a tank, or directly into the ground. Unlike graywater, rainwater is great for vegetable gardens. With rainwater harvesting, a 1000-ft roof can yield 600 gallons of water with just one inch of rain. Although San Diego typically receives about 10 inches of annual rain, with gutters, you could fetch over 300 gallons per one-inch of rainwater. With a large plastic tank, you can save this recycled rainwater and re-distribute it to your garden in a water-conservative way--saving energy, money, and most of all, water.
P.S. Be on the lookout for May's Signs of the Tide event featuring rain barrels!
Image 1: http://sites.lafayette.edu
Image 2: http://www.greywater.com
Last week, San Diego Coastkeeper and Think Blue San Diego hosted their second set of professional development workshop for the 2012-2013 academic year. During the two-day event over 20 elementary school teachers from San Diego Unified School District were trained to use Project SWELL in their classrooms effectively.
Thanks to our three fantastic professional development instructors, countless students will be exposed to the hands-on lessons that center around the preservation and betterment of our local waters.
Project SWELL was developed through a ground-breaking partnership between San Diego Coastkeeper, Think 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. Project SWELL helps teachers empower students about water quality issues and helps them to understand how to improve the condition of San Diego waterways.
Each SWELL unit of study (grades K-2 and 4- 6) consists of five or six age-appropriate, standards-based lessons that build student understanding of San Diego's aquatic environments and emphasize the actions that students can take to improve them.
More information about Project SWELL can be found on our website: www.projectswell.org.
Who: The contest is open to all high school students and all college students in the cities of San Diego, Coronado and Imperial Beach.
What: Create a 30-second Public Service Announcement
When: Entries due April 10, 2013
Where: All contest entrants will be recognized, and the finalists' films will be shown at a special “Red Carpet Premiere” at the IMAX Theater at the Rueben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park
Why: The film contest creates an opportunity to engage students directly about the importance of using water wisely, allowing the creativity of the students to inspire the rest of our community to use water more efficiently.
Theme: Storylines must use one of the following “how-to” messages:
How to “waste no water” by planting native or California-Friendly® plants.
How to “waste no water” by using a rain barrel.
How to show that “wasting no water” is important to San Diego’s economy.
How to create a sustainable world by “wasting no water.
Calling all students in grades 1-6! The City of San Diego Public Utilities Department is looking for the next Picasso. This year's theme: tell us how you, your family, your school, or your team “wastes no water.” Fill in the blank: _____ wastes no water and draw a picture of how they use water wisely.
Water is one of our most precious resources and using it wisely is part of keeping San Diego sustainable. A certificate of participation will be given to every student who creates a poster. Prizes for the winners will be presented at a San Diego City Council presentation.
Recognition: Prizes will be awarded at a San Diego City Council presentation in May 2013. Winning posters will be featured in the 2014 Water Conservation Poster Calendar. Winning posters will also be on display throughout San Diego, including:
City Administration Building – Lobby: May 2013
San Diego Watercolor Society Gallery: June 2013
San Diego County Fair – Kids’ Best Art Exhibit: June 2013
Prizes: Gift cards will be given for each grade level for first place, second place, & third place. An overall winner for the Recycled Water Category will also win a gift card.
Every time I present at a school, I am always struck by how hungry students are for hands-on environmental education. Revently, I had the pleasure of meeting with over 200 students from Linda Vista Elementary and Carson Elementary school.
The students were in the middle of an environmental curriculum and were looking for additional engagement around the topic of water quality and pollution control. To augment their learning, San Diego Coastkeeper came in to teach a hands-on lesson from Project SWELL, school-based science curriculum that teaches children about the importance of the San Diego region's waters.
Each lesson began with a simple question: What is marine debris and how does it affect the animals that live in marine environments? After spending a few minutes brainstorming ideas the students got an opportunity to model how entanglement can affect a sea animal.
Sarah Hargis, the Literacy Supervisor at Linda Vista Elementary had this to say about the presentation:
“[This] presentation not only gave real insight to our students' questions, but also gave them hands-on activities that simulated real situations that occur in the environment due to human negligence. We wouldn't have been able to have a successful environmentalism unit without Ms. Gipson's presentation. We look forward to having her visit again and continue being part of our effort to educate students on the environment."
Thanks Sarah! I look forward to working with your students again.
Interested in learning more about Project SWELL? Visit us online at www.projectswell.org
We spent a great evening at Millennial Tech Middle School’s Winter Science Festival in the Chollas View neighborhood of San Diego. San Diego Coastkeeper Core volunteer Caitlin, San Diego Coastkeeper’s education coordinator Nia, and I were on-hand to provide brief 25-minute educational sessions on marine debris.
The ‘Marine Sea Animal Entanglement Exercise’ was shared with students and their parents. Eliciting answers to questions regarding how marine debris such as plastic bags, cigarette butts, oil, and other items end up in the ocean and have their effect on sea life from students was fun and students always provided many examples of how this happens. Students know remarkably well the effects of pollution on their environment and how it can affect marine life as they explain it to everyone participating in the exercise.
The exercise has students (and parents) pinch their fingers together like a dolphin beak or rostrum, pick up beans scattered on their table (representing fish), and placing them in a container for a 30 second time span. Each student then counts how many fish she or he caught and scores are tallied. Then a rubber band (representing a plastic bag entangled on the beak) is placed over the fingers and students again try to catch fish for 30 seconds. Scores are tallied and students can see the effects that this has on animals trying to survive in the wild.
One of the more interesting discoveries by most parents doing this exercise is that San Diego sewage and stormwater drainage are really two separate entities, that is, stormwater does drain directly into the ocean taking all the trash that accumulates on streets and watersheds with it directly. Educating parents and their young students in outreach activities like this is another step to moving towards San Diego Coastkeeper’s goal of having swimmable, fishable and drinkable water for everyone.
Millennial Tech Middle School is a magnet school with a focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Post written by Hector Valtierra. Hector is a member of San Diego Coastkeeper's Community Advisory Council.
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:
- 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
- Drinking straws
- Clear plastic cups
- Ice cream scoop
- Fill a clear plastic cup 1/3 full with gummy bears, chocolate chips, or crushed ice. This represnts sand/gravel in your aquifer.
- Add enough soda to just cover the candy/ice.
- Add a layer of ice cream to serve as a "confining layer" over the water-filled aquifer.
- Then add more "sand/gravel" on top of the "confining layer."
- Add a layer of sprinkled over the top to create the porous top layer (top soil).
- 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."
- Using a drinking straw, drill a well into the center of your aquifer.
- Slowly begin to pump the well by sucking on the straw. Watch the decline in the water table.
- Notice how the contaminants can get sucked into the well area and end up in the groundwater by leaking through the confining layer.
- Now recharge your aquifer by adding more soda which represents a rain shower.
- Eat and enjoy your aquifer!
Lesson adapeted from the Groundwater Foundation.
On my very first day with San Diego Coastkeeper, Waterkeeper Jill Witkowski came to me with an idea to change the way we tackle water issues throughout the county.
She envisioned pulling together a group of community members from throughout San Diego County who represent the diverse backgrounds and concerns of the region to better inform us of what local, water-related problems were out there.
As an organization that works to “find and fix” these problems, Jill saw a need for us make sure we were finding what truly needed fixing. There seemed no better way to identify these issues than straight from the individuals seeing them every day.
If I ever had any doubts about how motivated San Diego Coastkeeper was to making ideas become reality, it was quickly cleared up as we launched the application process for our inaugural Community Advisory Council just three weeks later at our Signs of the Tide event.
At the same time, the San Diego community wasted no time in showing me how devoted they were to protecting our water. In the one-month application window, we received 24 applications from a wide range of ages, professions, interests and locations. There were 24 applications for 10 seats on the Council.
Reading through the applications was one of the most inspiring and motivating processes. It’s amazing how many individuals wanted to be a part of enacting change in their community. Students and parents, legal professionals, college professors, and healthcare workers all voiced their concern over water quality and availability here in San Diego.
While we heard from drastically different communities and individuals, the concern for clean water availability was constant. From Oceanside to Chula Vista, we heard from people who were not only concerned about their water, but were willing to take an active role in protecting it. This was incredible to see and only made the selection process more difficult.
After four weeks of reviewing applications and meeting with candidates, we were left with 10 members of our inaugural Community Advisory Council. They will be responsible for representing their community’s concerns and working with others to develop solutions. Our Council members will also act as representatives of San Diego Coastkeeper, helping to educate their community and provide them with resources to be successful advocates for their water.
We are thrilled to welcome on our inaugural Community Advisory Council. We have a dynamic and passionate group and are excited to work with them in the coming months. If the last two months are any indication, the next year will be an incredible time at San Diego Coastkeeper and looks very promising for the health of our water.
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
- Soil or sand
- 1 – 2 cups of water
- Add your soil to the plastic tub.
- Position the plastic cup in the center of the tub, partially submerged in the soil for stability.
- Sprinkle 1-2 cups of water over the soil.
- 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.
- Place the solar still in a still and sunny location. Observe your still throughout the day. What do you notice happening?
- How does water get into the oceans?
- What are clouds? What are clouds made of?
- How does rain form?
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.
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 Coastkeeper, Think 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.