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Bring the Wonders of Watersheds Alive For Students

Water and its availability (or lack of availability during droughts) has always been tied to California’s history, population growth and economy – making it an important environmental education topic for today’s students.

From canoeing in a slough to wading in a creek, one of California’s most important and limited resources comes alive in Marine Science Institute’s (MSI) inquiry-driven, multiple-exposure program called Wonders of Watersheds. Students learn what a watershed is, its importance, and then explore MSI’s local Redwood Creek watershed to discover how humans depend on it and influence it.

Wonders of Watersheds is designed for students 6th grade and up. Through the Wonders of Watersheds series students participate in three hands-on discovery exposures. Each of these exposures builds upon the previous class’ curriculum thereby progressively deepening the students’ overall understanding of our watersheds.

These exposures include:

  • An in-class visit called “Wonders of Watersheds Inland Voyage”

  • A field trip called “Creek Study at Stulsaft Park”

  • A second field trip called “Canoes in Sloughs in Redwood Creek”

During the first exposure - “Wonders of the Watersheds” - the students are introduced to the concept of a watershed in their own classroom through hands-on experimentation with an Enviroscape watershed model. Students brainstorm different ways that pollution can be introduced into the system and then demonstrate how the pollution then washes into the local bodies of water.

“I loved the watershed model and how (my) students’ participation was required to show pollutions effects on the watershed,” wrote an Edna Maguire Elementary School teacher.

For their second exposure -“Creek Study at Stulsaft Park”- students go on their first field trip to the upper regions of the Redwood Creek watershed. During this field trip students gather data on the physical and chemical properties of the water in Arroyo Ojo de Agua, a tributary of Redwood Creek. Students then participate in a trash clean-up activity and take data on the composition of the trash they collect. This information is used to investigate the sustainability and health of the local urban watershed.

For their third and final exposure - “Canoes in Sloughs in Redwood Creek” - students

explore the lower region of the watershed in a unique and exciting way. For most students this is the first time canoeing, making it a fun, exciting adventure as they canoe through the sloughs around Bair Island. Students test water quality, compare data to other parts of the watershed, do a trash pick-up analysis, and reflect upon their connection to and impact on the watershed.

To learn more about Wonders of Watersheds or to book your program, please visit Marine Science Institute’s mission is to inspire respect and stewardship for the marine environment through experiential learning. All Marine Science Institute programs are aligned to NGSS Standards, and provide opportunities for cross-cutting between concepts. A variety of school programs are offered for pre-kindergarten thru college. To learn more visit our website at

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