Grant #267

Watershed Education Initiative

Project Description:

Sierra Nevada Journeys (SNJ) proposes an innovative, culturally relevant program for Washoe County area youth that includes a comprehensive approach to watershed education through the Watershed Education Initiative (WEI). The WEI had been an ongoing component of our programs since 2011, made possible thanks to the generous and ongoing support of the Truckee River Fund.

In Summary, the Watershed Education Initiative includes:

  • The school-based component includes two in-class lessons (three) hours of in class instruction. Students participate in hands-on lessons that incorporate the Truckee River watershed, point and non-point source pollution, invasive species, sources and impacts of erosion, water conservation and stewardship.
  • The field-based component includes approximately one day of outdoor science education as students hike along the Truckee River Watershed. Students seek clues related to the health of the watershed and determine water quality by collecting and identifying macro-invertebrates or conducting chemical tests such as pH, dissolved oxygen, or turbidity. Students use evidence to make a conclusion about the health of the Truckee River Watershed.
  • SNJ provides five ready-to-use classroom extension lessons for teachers that help students prepare for and review learning objectives, as well as extend and reinforce each SNJ-directed lesson.
  • To encourage family engagement, SNJ provides teachers with a template to email parents with a summary and pictures of their child’s experience after each unit along with information for family based discussion of the curriculum.
  • The volunteer component of the program builds our capacity to involve the local community and broadens accessibility to our programming for low-income schools by helping to keep costs low.

After two years of virtual and hybrid teaching, we were thrilled to return to more in-person instruction during the 2021-22 school year and anticipate primarily in person programming for Fall 2022. However, Sierra Nevada Journeys remains ready and will offer a suite of flexible formats for WEI in case pandemic restrictions return. These formats include: fully in-person programming with a field trip to a local nature site; a hybrid of virtual and in person instruction with a field experience at their schoolyards; fully online with a virtual field experience; or providing lessons to teachers that they could implement independently.

TMWA Benefit:

WEI is an education program that addresses water, water quality and watershed protection for K-8th grade students, directly aligning with grant priority VI: Stewardship and Environmental Awareness. Students gain first-hand experience determining water quality, explore human impacts on their water source, and obtain skills, knowledge and a field experience to connect them to their local river. The overall long-term program impacts include:

  • Students understand important science concepts related to the Truckee River watershed and can
  • articulate how their actions affect the Truckee River watershed and local ecosystems.
  • Teachers use extension lessons and implement more hands-on exploration of the watershed. Parents
  • and community members engage in watershed education directly through WEI volunteer.
  • Health of the Truckee River watershed and local ecosystems improves as students and their families adopt environmental stewardship practices that help reduce water pollution and human impacts.