The Coastal Watershed Council (CWC) has been working closely with Bay View Elementary School in Santa Cruz, CA for many years. Aside from school holidays and breaks, it’s very uncommon that a week goes by without CWC staff stepping onto the Bay View campus at least a few times. In addition to the classroom visits and field trips that we offer during the school day as part of our Watershed Rangers youth education program, CWC has also brought the Watershed Rangers program to Bay View’s After School Academy (ASA) for years and is now a staple of the ASA program. If you thought classroom and afterschool programs is where CWC draws the line, think again!  

A Watershed Rangers student colors a great blue heron, a common bird of the San Lorenzo River.

On Saturday, March 25th, CWC Watershed Rangers staff Sam Adelson and Maria Rocha parked in their usual spot in the same parking lot they’d parked in dozens if not hundreds of times. The energy was different- Today was Fiesta de los Artes, a celebration of the arts and the students at Bay View who have been learning all about them! Students we’ve watched grow up over the years performed with musical instruments, choreographed dance, led activities, prepared pupusas and more! 

It’s so normal for Sam and Maria to be on campus with these students, but it’s a treat to finally get to meet some of their parents. “So you are the famous Watershed Rangers teachers?” adults ask as they approach our CWC table at the Fiesta. “My kid can’t stop talking about the San Lorenzo River and his field trip, he is so excited about nature thanks to you.”  

How many butterflies can you find?

Getting kids excited about the San Lorenzo River and the wildlife that can be found there is something Sam and Maria have a lot of experience with. At Fiesta de los Artes, we finally got the opportunity to teach adults as well. We created a tri-fold information sheet about why the San Lorenzo River is important to both humans and animals and how to protect it. Our table had this sheet and so much more information about our amazing river and our education programs. 

Don’t worry, adults! We’ve got education opportunities for you too!

Fusing art and teaching is something very common that Sam and Maria like to do to support students connection with nature and with others. At our table there were so many art options, including flyers that teach others how to protect nature, food web and wildlife coloring sheets, and field guides of local wildlife. Some students were really shy at first, but once we gave them a coloring sheet they burst out of their shell and started having fun. The beautiful thing about art is that it knows no age! We had adults coloring, a toddler learning to use a colored pencil for the first time, and some of our Watershed Rangers friends who came out and joined us! 

Maria Rocha explains to parents that there are lots of ways to protect the San Lorenzo River!

It’s not always easy working with so many students, so many teachers, different classroom dynamics and afterschool energy, but at Fiesta de los Artes it’s all about fun and weekend vibes. You better believe we’ll be back again for the Fiesta next year and the year after that.  

This work is made possible because of generous funding and support from Santa Cruz County CORE. Thank you for your continued dedication to environmental education and strong, healthy communities.   

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