When it rains, where does all the water go? This is an underlying question and theme of the Coastal Watershed Council’s second grade Watershed Rangers lesson series, in which students explore concepts of runoff, permeable surfaces, groundwater and how we can help more water sink into the ground. Before you continue reading- Why do you think it might be important for water to sink in instead of run off? 

Through a series of six lessons facilitated by CWC’s Education Manager Mollie Behn, students in Kathy Chaput and Laura Zonis’ class at Bay View Elementary shared excitement, passion and motivation as they navigated through our lesson series, a blend of art, inquiry and hands-on science activities, which culminates in student action projects. On most occasions, the student action projects from our second grade Watershed Rangers consist of drawn models of permeable surfaces that allow water to sink into the ground. This class was different.

                                                                    Teamwork makes the dream work! 

While students learned from home for most of this school year, Santa Cruz’s Bay View Elementary School campus has been under construction to become more environmentally friendly, including the installation of a bioswale which captures runoff and helps it sink into the ground. Bioswales benefit from plants growing within them as a way to provide habitat to native animals, attract pollinators and to help filter pollution from runoff. As soon as students were allowed back on campus, they and their teachers reflected on CWC’s lesson series and hatched a plan: Let’s plant native plant species in our school’s bioswale as our action project! 

With native species California fescue (Festuca californica) and spreading rush (Juncus patens) selected and supplied by Central Coast Wilds on campus and ready to plant, students donning masks, garden gloves and trowels intently observed the planting demonstration by CWC’s Environmental Educator Sam Adelson before digging, unpotting, backfilling, flagging, and watering their plant of choice. Students broke through packed soil, navigated around drip irrigation lines, unearthed and reburied insect pupae and proudly asked for help when needed before voluntarily helping clean up empty pots and scattered garden gloves. 

                                                                                      Stewardship in action! 

When more water sinks into our regional landscapes, there is more water for trees and other plants, a better environment for underground critters maintaining the health of our soils, more reliable drinking water for humans and a more sustained flow of clean water for our San Lorenzo River. Installing bioswales, permeable pavement, and rain gardens are just a few examples of ways we can help. For more information, track down a second grade Watershed Ranger and continue following our work at the Coastal Watershed Council. 

                                                                                  After the dust settled. 

Special thanks to NOAA’s Bay Watershed Education and Training (BWET) for funding these incredible opportunities. 

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