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.