This program is currently not active. 

Youth River Health Days

Grade: Kindergarten-8th Grade
Duration: 1-2 hours
Location: Banks of the lower San Lorenzo River


Related to Next Generation Science Standards:

1-LS3-1. Make observations to construct an evidence-based account that young plants and animals are like, but not exactly like, their parents
2-LS2-1. Plan and conduct an investigation to determine if plants need sunlight and water to grow.
2-LS4-1. Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats.
3-LS1-1. Develop models to describe that organisms have unique and diverse life cycles but all have in common birth, growth, reproduction, and death.
3-LS3-2. Use evidence to support the explanation that traits can be influenced by the environment.
3-LS4-3. Construct an argument with evidence that in a particular habitat some organisms can survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all.
3-ESS3-1. Make a claim about the merit of a design solution that reduces the impacts of a weather-related hazard.
4-LS1-1. Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction.
4-ESS3-2. Generate and compare multiple solutions to reduce the impacts of natural Earth processes on humans.
5-LS1-1. Support an argument that plants get the materials they need for growth chiefly from air and water.
5-ESS3-1. Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth’s resources and environment.
MS-LS1-5 (6th grade) Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how environmental and genetic factors influence the growth of organisms.
MS-ESS3-3 (6th grade) Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.
MS-LS1-6 (7th grade): Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for the role of photosynthesis in the cycling of matter and flow of energy into and out of organisms.
MS-LS2-1. (7th grade): Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.
MS-LS2-5. (7th grade): Evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services.
MS-ESS3-4. (8th grade): Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems.

Lesson Series Overview
Trees and native shrubs used to line the banks of the San Lorenzo River creating a vibrant and healthy river ecosystem. Native trees and shrubs provide many benefits for the environment and the community. Local wildlife rely on the habitat for food and shelter. The plants itself help reduce stormwater runoff, filter pollutants that would eventually enter the San Lorenzo River and reduce soil erosion. After the 1955 flood in downtown Santa Cruz, the Army Corps of Engineer built a levee system to help reduce flooding. In order to construct the levee, native trees and shrubs were removed from the banks of the San Lorenzo River creating a barren environment. In this barren environment, invasive plants took advantage of the open space and established themselves creating monocultures of invasive plants that threaten the necessary biodiversity that helps the San Lorenzo River thrive. With the guidance of CWC staff, students will learn how to help restore the native trees and shrubs to help increase biodiversity in this important riparian habitat. Depending upon the season students will either plant native trees or shrubs, remove invasive plants or water existing native plants. Youth River Health Days last between 1-2 hours depending upon the age of the youth participants. Youth will be participating in the habitat restoration along the banks of the lower San Lorenzo River in areas that have been designated by the Coastal Watershed Council and the City of Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation Department as areas in need of immediate habitat restoration work. Tools, gloves, and training will be provided.

Youth will:

  • Learn about the Importance of Habitat Restoration: Through interactive games and storytelling youth will learn about the history of the San Lorenzo River and why habitat restoration is needed.
  • Identify components of a Healthy Riparian Ecosystem: Youth will learn why a healthy riparian ecosystem is important to our environment and our community and will work in teams to identify healthy components of a riparian ecosystem. Youth will learn about a few local native plants and how to identify them.
  • Implement Habitat Restoration Techniques: Youth will learn safe use of tools and how to either safely plant native shrubs or remove invasive plants.
  • Celebrate Accomplishments: Youth will observe their accomplishments and collect data on how many plants they either planted or removed.

What to Bring:

  • Long pants and closed-toed shoes are required.
  • Bring a full water bottle (we will have water available for refills).
  • Sign youth waiver (if not already provided to teacher)

Optional Classroom Pre-Visit
Interested in students receiving a deeper introduction to a healthy riparian ecosystem and habitat restoration? CWC Education staff can visit your classroom prior to a Youth River Health Day to engage youth in hands-on activities about the need and importance of habitat restoration.

To register for a Youth River Health Day please contact Mollie Behn at