By Lindsey Hutchison, CWC Environmental Educator

My days growing up in Santa Cruz were filled with running around Soquel Creek where I would catch crawdads and count fish that swam by. At an early age I was encouraged to participate in beach and river cleanups and taught about the wonders of the outdoors. Those experiences shaped who I am today and made me want to give back to Santa Cruz County youth and educate them about their local environment. I want the children of today to grow up learning about their watersheds, about the animals and plants and the water itself. It is important for children to learn about their environment so that they can know the importance of their surroundings and work to restore the natural world starting at a young age.

Lindsey, at age 12, kayaking on Loch Lomond.

Before coming to the Coastal Watershed Council I was a member of the Watershed Stewards Program, whose mission it is to conserve, restore, and enhance anadromous watersheds for future generations by linking education with high quality scientific practices. I had the opportunity to teach in classes doing the Wonders of Watershed WSP education curriculum and teach for the Palo Alto Regional Water Quality Control Plant. Those experiences motivated me to continue educating youth about the environment and taught me the importance of experiential learning. At CWC I am an environmental educator and I work alongside CWC Education Coordinator Mollie Behn. I go to schools throughout the county and teach students K-8 about watersheds, stormwater, steelhead trout, water quality monitoring and pollution in a series of four week classes. I also have the opportunity to lead weekly after school programs with the second graders at Bay View Elementary and Gault Elementary as well as monthly after school programs at Branciforte Middle School and Nueva Vista Community Resource Center. These students will also get the chance of completing at least one service-learning project this year, with most of the groups completing more! The first service-learning project will be planting native plant species along the San Lorenzo River with the students from Nueva Vista this November!

I believe in letting kids take control of their environmental education and I am excited to seeing what they discover this coming year. In the brief time I have been with CWC I have already heard many great ideas about how to control pollution in storm drains, ideas about service-learning projects, and have had the chance to see many children draw trees and rivers when asked to create a picture of things they care about. The children I will be working with this year are the next generation of leaders, and I am so excited that they are already thinking of creative solutions to current problems. I am excited to see the students use scientific equipment, problem solve, and make their schools better and wiser.

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