Teach for the Watershed

We are building the next generation of Great Lakes Advocates through watershed education! Teach for the Watershed (T4W) is a place-based, outdoor education program built upon the Michigan Science Standards and Next Generation Science Standards for watersheds, ecosystems, and nonpoint source pollution. In 2018, over 1,500 students in West Michigan participated in this program and were able to see first-hand how they can directly influence the local environment.

Starting out in the classroom, your students will explore a tabletop Enviroscape watershed model to discover how water moves across a landscape and transports pollution from our watersheds and into our waterways. Then it’s off to the field to engage in place-based learning by using the tools of the trade like waders, nets, microscopes, and chemistry kits to assess the health of your watershed. Check out the sections below for more information.

Enviroscape Presentation - 1 hour guest presentation OR virtual lesson

The Enviroscape Nonpoint Source Pollution Model is a striking model landscape that demonstrates the sources and effects of pollution within a watershed. Your students will be able to engage with the tabletop model and experience first-hand how nonpoint source pollution is created and moves into streams via stormwater runoff. This lesson can be led by one of our WMEAC educators or facilitated virtually with a pre recorded presentation. Insert several photos of the enviroscape and students applying pollution

Stream Assessment - 2 hour field trip

Station 1 - Collecting Aquatic Macroinvertebrates

Aquatic macroinvertebrates are small organisms without backbones that live in water and are big enough to see with the naked eye. Many different kinds of macroinvertebrates live in our streams and rivers and include many types of insects as well as worms, snails, clams, and crustaceans. Different kinds of aquatic macroinvertebrates can survive in polluted or clean waters. Sampling their biodiversity will indicate the stream’s water quality. During this station, students will use chest waders and dip nets to collect organisms.

WMEAC will provide all the equipment necessary. If any of your students need accommodations please let us know when you schedule your stream study.

Station 2 - Identifying Aquatic Macroinvertebrates

After collecting a sample from the stream your students will sort, count and identify the macroinvertebrates into three categories of pollution tolerance. This station introduces the concept of using macroinvertebrates as a biotic index to determine the water quality of the stream. WMEAC will provide your students with tools and resources for identification.

Station 3 - Water Chemistry

During this station a qualified mentor will lead your students through several chemical experiments to test for pollution within the watershed. Students will be able to participate in each test, learn what pollutants affect each test, and how to read their results.

Equipment includes a thermometer, turbidity column, and easy-to-use LaMotte TesTabs for dissolved oxygen, pH, phosphates and nitrates. WMEAC will provide all the necessary equipment for each test.

Station 4 - Biodiversity Walk

Students will conduct a visual assessment of the riparian zone, the surrounding land of the stream as well as collect litter or, as the season allows, they will identify and remove vegetative invasive species. WMEAC will provide appropriate keys, bags, and gloves for this station.