A second-grade after-school student at Bay View Elementary School whips her hair in a circle, flinging water drops all over her fellow Watershed Rangers classmates as they squeal in a fit of laughter. Although the rainy season has not yet arrived in Santa Cruz and it’s a hot, dry Wednesday afternoon, Sofia’s hair is dripping with rainwater. Students participating in CWC’s Watershed Rangers education program know that hydrology, or the study of water, can be tons of fun.

On this after-school lesson at Bay View Elementary School, students have been exploring the phenomenon of how and why there can still be water flowing in the San Lorenzo River even though it has hardly rained in five months. Using sponges, buckets of water and native plants in 1-gallon containers, students discover that less water drips out from the bottom of the container than they poured in, and that water is still dripping out very slowly from the plant’s container after ten minutes. Naturally, the students ask if they can use the sponges to “test” how well some of their friends absorb water. A few volunteers, including Sofia, line up to experience how much water the soil and healthy roots of native plants (sponges) can hold as it slowly seeps into the river (onto a giggling Sofia’s hair) over time. As the giggles simmer down, we share our conclusions together – healthy soils and native plants can store water and release it slowly all the way through the summer. That’s one reason why the river has water even when it hasn’t rained.

In closing, students are asked where the water we used in this lesson came from. “The sink.”

And where does sink water come from? “The pipes.”

And where do the pipes get water from? “The river?”

And where does the river get its water in the summer? “The soil and the plants!”

And where do the plants and soil get the water? “The rain!”

So, where does the sink water really come from? “It’s the winter rain!”

As we prepare for the upcoming rainy season, CWC’s Watershed Rangers are happy to tell you about the pathways rain take after it falls from the clouds over the San Lorenzo River Watershed. We are excited for rain to make our soil loose and workable for youth to plant native species along CWC’s San Lorenzo River habitat enhancement site during Youth River Health Day field trips. We look forward to a wide-open river mouth and high river flows so we can continue to learn about the migration of steelhead trout. With the rains, our mountain forests, city parks, and cracks on campus blacktops become verdant ecosystems that beg to be observed and monitored. This is going to be the best winter ever!

Learn More about CWC’s Watershed Rangers:

School Year Reflections

This summer, as the Coastal Watershed Council’s education program runs in-person field study trips along the San Lorenzo River with youth from local school and community groups, we also take time to reflect on the past school year. One for the record books.   With a...

Students Establish Deep Roots for Stewardship

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...

Summer Reading with Watershed Rangers and Bookshop Santa Cruz

This summer, Bookshop Santa Cruz's popular summer reading program is back! Kids in grades K-12 who read 6 books—at least 3 from Bookshop's recommended reading list and up to 3 of their choice—will get to read terrific, age-tailored books, and earn excellent rewards...

Field trips return this summer!

After a year of without field trips, CWC is excited to welcome back youth to the banks of the San Lorenzo River this summer. CWC will partner with the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Cruz County, Nueva Vista Community Resources and Santa Cruz City School District to...

Back in Action at Bay View!

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...

The National Geographic Society Supports Watershed Rangers

Have you ever picked up a yellow-spined National Geographic magazine, flipped through the pages and explored the world right from your own couch? Many of us have those fond memories from our youth. And in a way, we were distance learning through these experiences. We...

Distance Learning Activities Support Santa Cruz County Youth

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash The start of this school year is different than any other. As teachers, parents and families navigate crisis after crisis in our community, CWC is working collaboratively to ensure that thousands of K-8th grade students in our...

Falling in Love with the San Lorenzo River

Watershed Rangers wave goodbye to the San Lorenzo River at the end of a CWC field tripIf you’ve ever fallen in love with a special someone, there are some telltale signs you may recognize: The way your eyes widen when you see them from afar, the smile and giggles that...

The Impact of Watershed Rangers in Action

When students finish CWC's Watershed Rangers environmental education program, they raise their hand and take a pledge: “As a Watershed Ranger, I promise to protect and care for our community and the San Lorenzo River. I promise to continue to explore the San Lorenzo...

End of the Year Marks a New Beginning for Watershed Rangers

"As a Watershed Ranger, I promise to protect and care for our community and the San Lorenzo River. I promise to continue to explore the San Lorenzo River, ask what I can do to help out and share what I know with others." --Watershed Ranger Pledge As 2019 comes to a...
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