Solano Resource Conservation District’s Watershed Explorers Program will bring 27 third-grade classes to Rockville Hills Park this spring, just in time to see lupines and poppies in full bloom. Through the Watershed Explorer fieldtrips and supporting in-class lessons, students, teachers and parents engage in an interactive learning experience about the relationship between human behaviors in urban areas and the impact of those behaviors in wild and open spaces.
Students will participate in a series of in-class lessons to prepare for a 4.5 hr field trip to Rockville Hills Park. During the field trip, participants will visit a series of stations featuring activities to orient them to the park and the universal environmental concepts at play there.
Activities include an enviroscape presentation demonstrating the effect of stormwater runoff on our watershed. The three-dimensional watershed model provides students with hands-on activities, allowing students to see how urban ‘runoff’ – like oil, litter and dog waste – enters nearby storm drains and ends up in the Sacramento River, Suisun Marsh, or San Pablo Bay –depending where students reside.
Other activities help participants learn the significance of native vegetation and the detrimental impact of invasive species to the watershed, observing first-hand the impact Italian thistle has had in the park. Italian thistle is native to the Mediterranean region and was introduced to California in the 1930's. The seeds germinate and grow most easily on bare and disturbed soils, and can remain viable in the soil for up to eight years. Italian Thistle has taken over the entire front side of the park. Field trip participants help to combat the spread of non-native invasive plants like Italian thistle by propagating wildflowers in pots made from cow dung. The pots are biodegradable and students can plant them directly into the ground at their home, taking part in hands-on stewardship that will leave a tangible reminder each time they look at the wildflower living in their garden. .
From a participants’ perspective, Watershed Explorers is an exciting program that delivers CA Standard-based lessons in a meaningful and compelling way, making environmental science both tangible and relevant to children.
Despite universal acclaim and ongoing demand for the program, local budget constraints challenge our ability to offer Watershed Explorers to all the children and schools who would like to participate. The 2011-2012 school year program budget has required a reduction of twenty less classes from the previous year. Without additional program funding support for the 2012-2013 school year, the program will face additional cuts, resulting in an almost 50% reduction of classes able to participate.
Solano RCD is very grateful of its current local funders, which include: Solano County & all City Jurisdictions, Vallejo Water Conservation Program, Fairfield Suisun Sewer District, Suisun Resource Conservation District, City of Suisun City, Vallejo Sanitation and Flood Control District, and Potrero Hills Landfill. Without the generous support of these local agencies, the Watershed Explorers Program would not exist.