The Wetland Stewards Program is a hands-on, experiential wetland science after-school program with a mentoring component. The Program has was expanded in 2012 to enroll nine Pajaro Valley High School interns each academic year. Throughout the school year, the Wetland Steward interns are trained in indoor and outdoor classrooms by the Watch’s education staff, by visiting scientists and experts, and through the Stewards’ own mentoring of younger students: The Stewards help lead visiting elementary and middle-school groups through outdoor inquiry-based activities. They develop leadership skills and serve as positive role models to the younger students as they explore the wonders of the wetlands right outside the Watch’s home, the WERC.
Click to read about the Program’s Goals and Objectives.
The Wetland Stewards Program is made possible by generous support from Foundation for Youth Investment, The John & Abby Sobrato Donor-Advised Fund, Cecil’s Fund, The Toole Fund, The Robert N. & Florence Slinger Fund, and Community Foundation Santa Cruz County.
The Program uses our wetland stewards middle school outdoor curriculum guide, which is compatible with CA standards and is appropriate for the demographics of Watsonville youth. These activities include bird watching, water-quality testing, plant scavenger hunts, soil and compost discoveries, aquatic invertebrate observations, nature water coloring, and journaling. Program outline.
Throughout the school year the high school mentors help elementary school and now middle-school students become familiar with the Watsonville wetlands and participate in wetlands biodiversity monitoring. The middle-school students collect population data on aquatic invertebrates in the sloughs and develop a project that helps them understand how research on aquatic invertebrate populations can be used to assess wetland health. High school mentors and adult docents guide the process and keep students focused and engaged. High school mentors also receive additional training and enrichment opportunities like field trips and career talks every Tuesday.
As described in the September 2013 Newsletter, because the Pajaro Valley Unified School District invited the Watsonville Wetlands Watch to adapt our successful Wetland Stewards after-school program to summer school, seven of our former Wetland Stewards were able to return to Watsonville to participate in the program. Under the supervision of our our environmental educators, the Stewards helped educate about 100 elementary school students.
For three hours each week, a class of excited, soon-to-be 5th graders went on field trips to the wetlands. Guided by our expert educators, Wetland Stewards alumni, and intrepid docents, the summer students were introduced to the wonders of the Watsonville Wetlands through fun, hands-on games and activities. In particular, the students participated in the restoration of Tarplant Hill and the trails along Ramsay Park. They also engaged in aquatic invertebrate exploration, birding, plant identification, and pressing and transplanting native plants from our greenhouse to take home. For many of the students, this was their first time outside in our wetlands, where they had the opportunity to create the important connections to nature that will help them grow into the next generation of stewards and advocates for the wetlands.
A reception was held at The Fitz Wetlands Educational Resource Center to celebrate the Wetland Stewards graduating class of 2012. At the reception family members, friends, docents, staff, and board members gathered to celebrate the hard work and achievements of the interns. Each Steward led an activity related to their wetland knowledge on such topics as aquatic invertebrates, cultural history, wildlife, or plants.
Following this celebration, staff took the Stewards on a camping trip to Andrew Molera State Park in Big Sur. The weather was sunny and warm and the campsite location was ideal with wonderful hikes and the beach nearby. Highlights of the trip included a sunset hike, crossing the Big Sur River, swimming in the ocean, wildlife encounters, and cooking on an open fire.
We thank the Wetland Steward Class of 2012 for their hard work and dedication to educating others! (06/2012)
During winter break the Wetland Stewards class of 2012 visited the Seymour Marine Discovery Center and Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz to explore the marine ecosystems of the Monterey Bay. At the Seymour Center, they explored the aquarium, the education exhibits, and toured the marine mammal facilities to see the dolphins. At Natural Bridges, they explored the Monarch grove, the visitor center, and went tide pooling! They learned a lot about interpretation by observing other educators in action and they each researched and presented a topic they were interested in. (12/2011)
The Wetland Stewards class of 2011 have been developing a number of teaching strategies such as inquiry-based learning to engage their students. In December 2010 they visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium with docent Linda Youmans. The stewards observed the teaching strategies of the volunteers and docents to improve their own practice. Many of the stewards remarked about the enthusiasm and engagement of the educators at the aquarium. Next semester, the stewards will be teaching about wetland habitats and restoration in the Watsonville Sloughs.
The Stewards mentored 4th and 5th graders from Radcliffe and Calabasas elementary schools teaching them to monitor and study aquatic invertebrates as part of Project Tierra. The first week the students visited Watsonville Slough to collect the animals from the water and mud. The following week the classes visited the WERC to observe and identify their samples. Using microscopes and an aquatic invertebrates key, the students used datasheets to record the species they identified . They observed a crayfish, dragonfly larva, damselfly larva, and water boatmen. At the end of the lab, they analyzed the data to determine the health of the Watsonville Slough in early December ; results suggested the slough health was “good.” They also learned what kinds of conditions may change these results.
On another visit, the students toured the WERC and took a walk in the wetlands with binoculars at sunset. There were a number of frog and mice sightings! During the final weeks of the eight-week program, they built their own models of aquatic invertebrate “bugs” to take home. (01/2011)
As part of their training on Watsonville’s wetlands, our six new Wetland Stewards (Jose Alanis, Rosemary Alvarez, Jennifer Baker, Anthony Barrios, Yadira Grajeda, and Ventura Vega) explored the sloughs on kayaks in early September. With permission from local land owners we were able to provide this unique educational and inspirational experience to help our students learn about the ecology, plants, and animals of the wetlands.
Aside from kayaking, the stewards had a chance to practice some of the teaching techniques they’ve been learning, such as asking open- ended questions. As another part of their training, the stewards learned about birds from Michelle Templeton and Cristy Cassel of the City’s Wetlands of Watsonville Nature Center. They not only refined their skills with binoculars, they learned about birds and how to teach elementary students about birds.
2010 was a great year to be a mentor for the Wetland Stewards After-School Program. Our high school mentors (Andrea, Fernando, Jasmin, Sandra, Rudy and Miguel) taught an environmental after-school program at Mintie White Elementary School and Lakeview elementary school. They are exploring neighboring watersheds and other eco-systems, and they took a field trip to Año Nuevo to watch and study Northern elephant seals.
Our spring 2010 theme was “Wetland Stewards learn habitats.” During these sessions the mentors assisted with a variety of teaching tasks ranging from bird feeder creation to restoration projects. Throughout the spring they worked continuously, crafting animal presentations, using animal skulls, live animals, or exhibit animals from the WERC. The mentors gave these presentations to younger students who participate in the after-school program.
Laura Hofmeister is a long-time Watch supporter and friend of the wetlands. Laura initially supported the Watch by providing funds inherited from her mother to create our greenhouse. The greenhouse is dedicated in honor of her mother, Ruth Hofmeister, a teacher and librarian who passed her love of nature on to her eight children, in part by making them learn the names of plants, animals, and insects. “My mother was always sending us outside,” said Laura in a recent interview. “We would build dams, climb trees, do a lot of outdoor things.”
But for Laura Hofmeister, her gift of the greenhouse was not enough. Laura, who is a medical doctor and pathologist by training and mother of four, is concerned that many people today have “nature deficit disorder” and are disconnected from the natural world. “In the electronic world, people have the illusion that they are in control of everything. Our recent storms are a reminder of the power and wonder of nature. My daughter went with me to Big Basin during the last big rain; we saw an amazing waterfall there — it may never be like that again.”
To support the Watch’s efforts to connect youth with nature, Laura contributed $500 to the Watch’s first scholarship, awarded last June to Sandra Lobato. Lobato, a docent and former Wetland Steward, is finishing her first year in environmental studies at UC Santa Cruz. Then, in 2010, Laura pledged a gift of $10,000 per year for five years, which will endow both an annual $1000 scholarship for a student and a two-semester stipend each year for a Wetland Steward — forever. Says Laura, “It means a lot to me to play a part in bringing nature to future generations.”
In fall 2009, Watsonville Wetlands Watch received a second grant from the S.H. Cowell Foundation to help us integrate citizen science into our Wetland Stewards After School Program. We have been very successful in getting our after school middle and high school students interested and engaged in the wetlands over the last three years and are now ready to challenge students further by mentoring them to take on the role of scientist.
In Spring of 2009, WWW was awarded a new grant from Community Foundation Santa Cruz County in the amount of 20K. The grant will be used to enhance and broaden the Wetland Stewards Program. We are excited to receive support from the Community Foundation and this recognition of the importance of environmental education.
|In June, 2008, seven Wetland Stewards gave
presentations and celebrated
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|In May 2008, the Wetland Stewards spent two days
at Big Sur, camping and exploring.
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