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:

Heidi’s Adventures with the Watershed Rangers

Hello! My name is Heidi. I am a part-time Environmental Educator at the Coastal Watershed Council. I started at the beginning of March this year and it has been an awesome adventure getting to know the people and programs of CWC. I have worked as a Program Director...

First Impressions and a Second Look at the San Lorenzo River

Over the years, the Coastal Watershed Council (CWC) has brought thousands of Santa Cruz County students on field trips to study, appreciate and learn about the San Lorenzo River. In the classroom, students explore the benefits of clear water and native plants and ways...

Can We Dig It? Yes We Can!

With spring in the air, the Coastal Watershed Council’s Habitat Enhancement Site is in the best shape of the project’s existence. Wildflowers are blooming, bees and butterflies are pollinating and lizards and colorful birds are frequent visitors. The project is...

Watershed Rangers: Stories of Love

If you’re reading this, it has probably been a while since you last went on a school field trip. Do you remember any specific field trips from your elementary school years? Take a moment to reflect. What made those experiences so memorable?   This year and every year,...

Watershed Education in the San Lorenzo Valley

Watershed Rangers, the Coastal Watershed Council’s youth education program, serves youth primarily in the city of Santa Cruz with a particular focus on San Lorenzo River-adjacent schools and community organizations. CWC is driven to strengthen the bonds between the...

Once, Twice, Three Times a Ranger!

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Coastal Watershed Council Goes Back to School!

When opening one of the Coastal Watershed Council’s (CWC) grade-specific science journals, you’ll see captioned photos describing a Watershed Ranger as someone who studies, protects, and teaches people about nature.  If you live in Santa Cruz County it’s likely that...

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...
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