Let's get dirty!
Well, that's what I did with 40 other informal environmental educators from San Diego who attended the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) workshop on November 22. This training provided clear and consistent, researched-based standards that engage students in science instruction that will prepare them to utilize critical thinking and creative problem-solving necessary to excel in the global society.
What? Well, that means we want our students to truly understand and appreciate environmental science through experiences, not just memorization.
Kim Bess from the San Diego County Office of Education helped us get hands-on with the new science standards that focus on helping students to be able to do science rather than memorize facts. The NGSS standards or performance expectations give us the opportunity, with programs like Project SWELL, to serve as a resource for teachers looking for curriculum that engage students in critical thinking, and learning scientific concepts by doing science.
The NGSS were just recently adopted by the State of California along with other six states, opening the door to use nature as the perfect case study for hands-on science.
Yahoo! That's what we say. We love nature and its ability to teach us to much.
Twenty-six states and their broad-based teams worked together with a 41-member writing team and partners throughout the country to develop the standards. The framework comprises eight Scientific and Engineering Practices (asking questions, analyzing and interpreting data, etc.), seven Crosscutting Concepts (Cause and effect, Systems, and systems models, and others), and 44 Disciplinary Core Ideas focus on Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, Earth and Space Sciences, and Engineering, Technology & Applications of Science.
What I love about the NGSS is that students will learn by doing and they will be able to build on and revise their knowledge and abilities from K-12. Now everything that they wonder about in nature can be an experience to learn science.
I had the honor of joining our water quality lab manager and state Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, the California League of Conservation Voters and Groundwork San Diego-Chollas Creek for a tour of District 80 and a conversation about how we can change the fate of Chollas Creek--one of our region's most polluted waterways.
As we toured the urban reaches of this 32-mile creek, conversation ranged from monitoring ecosystem health with volunteer testing and our new bioassessment program to invasive plant removal to homelessness. We talked about trail maintenance and the value of residents getting involved with restoration and upkeep of this valuable resource in the community.
Coastkeeper and Groundwork have a project underway to restore a section of the creek and demonstrate water quality improvements. The Assemblywoman and League of Conservation Voters listened intently our optimism for success and our concerns about the difficulty small nonprofits face to effectively work under state grant contracts. We parted ways with enthusiastic pledges to follow-up regularly and plans to continue the important work in District 80.
Bringing together the power of community, activists and legislators like the group we had, Chollas Creek has a lot going for it.
I have the honor of working with dozens of interns every year, who come to San Diego Coastkeeper to learn about what we do and dig in to help us make the magic happen. I say it's an honor because I enjoy watching these young folks learn as they realize the gamut of environmental careers available to them in San Diego and across the nation. Every so often, a former intern will share his/her story with us and remind me how important these internships are for Coastkeeper's work and also our future workforce. This story below is from Aydin Muzaini, whose internship at Coastkeeper directly influenced his employer's choice to hire him.
Hi Travis -
I wanted to thank you and Mallory again for inviting me to help at the lab for the last two years. I was picked to do similar work on a project here at University of Miami, called the Net Zero Dorm Project, and I am doing much of the same sampling and testing as in San Diego.
I started volunteering with the San Diego Coastkeeper in 2011 collecting, testing and logging in water samples at the San Dieguito lagoon. With the direction of San Dieguito River Park Rangers Natalie Borchardt and Dante Lee, we collected monthly water samples from two different locations at the lagoon, where we made notes of the overall conditions. Later in the year I began working in your lab, testing water samples collected from the many sites across the county that other volunteers brought in. This experience taught me a lot. I learned how to take water samples, work with chemicals and conduct tests for bacteria. I use this same knowledge today at my position working with the Net Zero Dorm Project at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. I was immediately offered a position to work on this project as a transfer student to UM solely because of my hands-on experience from working with you at the Coastkeeper lab. What I do now at the UM Net Zero Dorm Project is very similar to Coastkeeper. The general work involves retrieving water samples from a treated wastewater tank and an underground cistern on a daily basis. I then submit these samples to the lab team for microbio testing. The status of the overall project, the shifts in bacteria levels, and the efficiency of the system are discussed weekly at the project team meetings.
Best to everyone,
Best to you, too, Aydin. Thanks for all your help and congratulations on your job.
Today's final presentations by students who participated in the Leadership Environmental Action Program (LEAP) were impressive. Young leaders Lexi, Erica, Steven, Diego, Tristan and Belen presented to their parents, San Diego Coastkeeper's Board President, our Community Advisory Council—which mentored these high school students over the past six months, and the staff that organized LEAP as a capstone event and celebration of their success. They brought to life their love of our water, awareness of the urgency of protecting it and knowledge of how to do that--passions and skills they will carry into their futures.
Lexi designed an environmental awareness week that she will teach at Solana Pacific school for 5th and 6th graders that will have the younger students take on recycling projects and commit to a pledge of sustainability. See her capstone presentation here.
Erica created a blog about environmental issues. She talked about meeting Todd Gloria and writing the Friendship Garden between the US and Mexico. CLICK THROUGH to her blog here.
Steven wanted to help his community learn, as he did, about the effects of stormwater so he designed an informational brochure to share. His ultimate goal – like that of Coastkeeper – is to provide people with knowledge and motivate them to take ACTION. "Eye-opener....now I notice things around me that affect water quality" READ page 1 and page 2 his brochure here. See his capstone presentation here.
Diego organized a cleanup in the community of Logan. He discovered that the best way to get people to act is by tapping into his own network; and that being able to get in touch with others and motivate the to participate will increase his impact. LEAP "provided me with a lot of new opportunities and gave me motivation to keep doing things like this".
Tristan created an ocean awareness video for his peers and younger surfers that shows how trash and stormwater pollution gets to the ocean and affects the health of the water they spend time in. "I want to inspire younger surfers."
Belen made an interactive presentation to her school clubs about water conservation and challenged her peers to talk about what water means to them and how they save it.
The students received certificates of achievement and a reusable goody bag with a book from Coastkeeper, a reusable water bottle from the Rob Machado Foundation (local surfer and environmental educator) and kayaking certificates from Chula Vista Kayak (owned by Community Advisory Council member Harry). Birch Aquarium at Scripps, one of our favorite partners in the community, extended the learning experience by providing us a room and hosting the students and their families in the aquarium after our potluck lunch. We chatted about their hobbies, how much they enjoyed the trip to Border Field State Park and kayaking in Chula Vista with the Community Council members. And they talked about plans to become bio-engineers, attend Harvard and study in China. The future of our water and our community lies in the hands of these smart young people. They're off to an excellent start.
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.
Since 2010, 45 states have adopted these standards for English and Math. Students are expected to:
- Articule 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?
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.
Teaching 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!
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!
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