Guest post by Ondrea Spychalski, WMEAC Teach for the Watershed Intern
The beginning of the school year in West Michigan has been graced by gorgeous fall weather, and soon it will be graced by WMEAC’s Teach for the Watershed (T4W) program. With teachers around the Grand Rapids area jumping at the opportunity to be involved in this hands-on learning experience, the T4W calendar is always packed at this time of year. This is due to the program’s recent exponential growth under the watchful eye of Kristine Bersche. As the program’s coordinator, Bersche works around the clock to incorporate, with success, the T4W curriculum into every Grand Rapids school.
Teach for the Watershed began several years ago with the aim to be an interactive watershed education program based on the Michigan Science Curriculum standards. It allows teachers and students the opportunity to learn about and take action to improve West Michigan’s watershed and the Great Lakes. T4W offers four different components that teachers can incorporate into their lesson plans. These programs include: 1) Water Usage and Storm Water Runoff; 2) The Biology of a Watershed, which gets students outside into streams to collect insects and evaluate the water quality; 3) Adopt-a-Stream and Invasive Species; and 4) Rain Gardens, Rain Barrels, and Low Impact Development.
“The programs we’ve included are hands-on for the students,” said Bersche. “They allow them to get outside during their school day to learn about how they impact their local streams and also how they can help keep their water clean.”
Bersche anticipates a 2013/14 school year even busier than last year’s, when the program nearly tripled the number of involved students from the year before. Over 2,500 students around Grand Rapids participated in presentations about storm water runoff during the 2012/13 school year. Some students also collected and identified macroinvertebrates from streams located near their schools in order to evaluate the quality of the water, and others even helped plant a rain garden on their school’s property.
This year, T4W is looking at an exciting partnership with Forest Hills Elementary School in addition to continuing its outreach and inclusion of many new schools. As the weather begins to cool down and make outdoor activities more difficult, the T4W staff will be working ardently to schedule events for the spring. The staff will also keep its storm water presentation component going throughout the winter months to provide background information that benefits other components of the curriculum.