655 teachers


> 13,700 students

About Project SWELL

Project SWELL (Stewardship: Water Education for Lifelong Leadership) is an innovative education program that provides students with locally-oriented water science, and empowers them to take an active role in protecting their environment. The interactive lessons and hands-on activities included in Project SWELL are designed to put students at the center of inquiry and exploration.

Born out of a partnership between San Diego Coastkeeper, the City of San Diego, and San Diego Unified School District, Project SWELL has brought hands-on environmental science to thousands of K-6 grade students in San Diego since its inception in 2003. The curriculum is available at no cost to all K-6 teachers within San Diego Unified School District. Our education team supports teachers interested in using Project SWELL by providing them with professional development training and in-class support, including classroom guided lessons, hands-on science kits, and comprehensive lesson plans. The curriculum is aligned with Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Project SWELL works in tandem with our other educational programs, Water Education for All and Water and Climate Stewards, to reach more students across San Diego.

Ready to bring Project SWELL to your classroom? Complete the guided lesson request form here or send your request to!

The Curriculum

The Project SWELL curriculum is aligned with state standards, empowering educators to use relevant, memorable examples of phenomena to explore multiple NGSS disciplinary core ideas, crosscutting concepts, and science and engineering practices. For more information on how our curriculum connects to NGSS and CCSS, check out the Project SWELL website.

Each grade level curriculum includes six to seven lessons and all the necessary science supplies to conduct the experiments, models, and other hands-on activities.

  • Kindergarten: Clean Water in San Diego – Students learn about some of the organisms that live in San Diego waters, explore how water environments are connected, and discover ways to help prevent pollution.
  • First Grade: Water Everywhere – First graders explore some of our important aquatic ecosystems, gain understanding of where our water comes from, and investigate their schoolyard for possible sources of pollution.
  • Second Grade: Water and Earth Materials in San Diego – Second graders learn how to identify unknown soils, model the movement of sediments through watersheds, and learn how humans contribute to runoff pollution.
  • Third and Fourth Grade: Water and San Diego Ecosystems – Students explore local ecosystems, learn about how visible and invisible pollution can affect them, and engage in action projects to propose solutions.
  • Fifth Grade: Earth Science: Water in San Diego – Students study the sources of San Diego’s water and model the water purification process.
  • Sixth Grade: Earth Science: San Diego Watersheds – Students define and design watersheds, model the ways water and pollution move through them, and brainstorm solutions to pollution.

Guided lessons

Throughout the school year, our education team visits classrooms across San Diego to work with teachers to use Project SWELL lessons to engage students in local water quality issues. Interactive lessons and hands-on activities are designed to put students at the center of inquiry and exploration.

Examples of classroom activities we lead include building watershed models, identifying possible sources of pollution in the schoolyard, and modeling how marine debris affects our wildlife. Each classroom we visit receives a science kit that contains all the materials needed to continue teaching Project SWELL curriculum after we leave. Our hands-on guided lessons promote cross-disciplinary connections, training students to be the next generation of water stewards.

To schedule a free guided lesson, complete the presentation request form here or send your request to

Teacher Trainings and Professional Development

Throughout the year, our education team hosts workshops where educators in San Diego Unified School District can get hand-on experience using the Project SWELL curriculum. Professional development training explores how our water science curriculum supports NGSS and CCSS, and provides the opportunity for teachers to get direct experience with the activities, allowing them to become more comfortable teaching Project SWELL curriculum to their classes.

During the training, teachers will gain understanding of the connections between different science concepts and practice science inquiry using real-life problems such as runoff pollution, water scarcity, and environmental degradation. Teachers can also begin to plan their curriculum using lessons that give students opportunities to develop models, construct explanations, design solutions, and much more.

Not able to make it to an upcoming teacher training? We can bring the training to your school! Contact for more details.

To learn more, visit the professional development page of the Project SWELL website.

One Kindergarten teacher said:

“[The students] really understood our local habitats and why animals would live in this environment.”

One second grade teacher said:

I love how well [Project SWELL] ties in and supports the district’s science unit. I also like how it connects the children with their environment and actions, that regardless of age you can make a difference.

One fifth grade teacher said:

I think [my students] were most impressed with the watershed activity because it was hands on. They learned all of the different types of waste that can be shed off the land into the groundwater, surface water, and end up in our drinking water and oceans.