It’s been nearly a year since students in Santa Cruz County attended school in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Amidst news of hybrid classroom models being implemented this month, now might be a good time to reflect on how the Coastal Watershed Council continues to support teachers and students during these challenging times. 

In addition to the creation of a distance learning curriculum for our K-5th grade Watershed Rangers education program and developing resources to support students and families in exploring and protecting the San Lorenzo River from home, CWC has been providing weekly in-person Watershed Rangers lessons to small groups of students enrolled in Bay View Elementary’s After School Education and Safety (ASES) program. 

As of late January 2021, CWC Environmental Educator Sam Adelson has been working with two rotating groups every Wednesday afternoon in the outdoor garden space of the school’s Life Lab, which has been an ideal setting for getting to know nature in our San Lorenzo River neighborhoods. Among our variety of scheduled lessons focused thus far on local plants, water conservation, erosion and using earth materials to build water filters, students have had freedom to explore their Life Lab garden in creative, socially-distanced ways.  

The students (2nd-5th grades) have documented and drawn ladybugs, worms, flowers, slender salamanders and even the neighborhood cat named Luna who visits us every week. After debriefing the day’s watershed science experiment, students are quick to clean up their science kits and workstations for the opportunity to play no-touch hide-and-seek, hang out with Luna, or wander among the raised garden beds using their magnifying glasses to see who can find the tiniest things. These select few students are the only youth to have been on Bay View’s campus since school closures last spring; they find it pretty cool to be VIPs at their own school. It has been fascinating and heartwarming to watch old friendships rekindle and new ones form between schoolmates who haven’t seen each other for nearly a year. 

In addition to in-person visits to Bay View Elementary on Wednesdays, Sam has also been facilitating virtual cohorts of Bay View’s ASES Watershed Rangers every Monday afternoon since October 2020. Each virtual cohort runs for 6 weeks and explores the same topics as the in-person groups, including the use of at-home science kits provided by CWC to develop contained river models on bedroom floors, kitchen tables and back yard benches. Virtual cohorts get the added bonus of viewing CWC’s YouTube videos and taking virtual watershed tours on Google Earth, sometimes with a sibling, parent or pet at their side!  

It has been a pleasure and an honor to participate in the continued education and support of our local youth at a time when it is so critically needed. We are immensely grateful to all of the parents, students and teachers for rolling with all of the changes this year and share your excitement as students and teachers take safe steps to go back to school this spring. 

These programs are made possible from generous support from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Bay Watershed Education and Training grant and the City of Santa Cruz CORE Investments. 

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