“I love those ‘a-ha moments,’ when someone learns something new and sees an opportunity to take action”
One local organization is taking conservation lessons inspired by the 64-mile long Coyote Creek, part of Santa Clara Valley’s largest watershed, and bringing them to the community in a unique way.Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful is working to engage students, teachers, and the public by creating “Watershed-in-a-Box” kits, ready-made lesson plans and educational materials that teach about our local watershed and creek conservation. These kits are designed for various age groups and can be used in either K-12 classrooms, especially seven target schools located along Coyote Creek, or in mixed groups at public, community events. The goal of the program is to build awareness and value of the creek environment so that people will help to appreciate our natural environment and get involved in advocacy and cleanup events.
The Coyote Creek Environmental Education Project, supported by the Open Space Authority’s Grant Program, partnered with both San Jose State University and the CommUniverCity program to engage college students in the development of the curricula and activities. In phase one, a San Jose State Environmental Studies class drafted new watershed-based courses at at a variety of age levels, from K-12. In phase two, educators and student interns from CommUniverCity selected a few of these draft courses to further develop them, making sure they meet current state educational standards, and tested them out in the classroom with local students in an afterschool program. In the final phase, Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful program staff worked to identify and adapt curricula that can be used for larger and mixed-age groups in a public setting like community festivals and nature walks.
Each box contains an age-appropriate lesson plan, laminated photos, hands-on materials, handouts, and supplies needed for any games or activities. Lessons focus on water quality, creekside habitat, and flood control, including the recent catastrophic flood of January 2017. In one lesson, participants are given laminated photos of 15 to 20 items they might choose to include in an emergency flood kit and asked to pick their top eight items that they then attach with velcro to a display board. These hands-on activities demonstrate how and why it's important to protect our creekside environments.
“I love those ‘a-ha moments’, when someone learns something new and sees an opportunity to take action,” said Deb Kramer, Executive Director of Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful.
This year, the educational kits will be used in 5 different schools, 8 after-school programs, and at 15 public events. Once finalized for public use, these boxes will be available for loan to teachers and community groups.