For the space of one board meeting every month, and assorted and various other activities in between, I get to dive head first into my local creeks. Sadly, not literally. Just into their world. Which is a very mixed bag, locally.
Remember those listed species I get so starry eyed about? California red-legged frog, baby, right here in town. Well, in a location that shall go unnamed for the protection of said frogs, but right here, in the local creeks. Portions of our local creeks are gorgeous - protected lands, healthy riparian corridor, beautiful walking paths. Dragonflies and wood ducks and loveliness.
And portions need... a lot of help. Trashed, culverted, concrete lined channels covered with invasive species.
Recently I was contacted by two separate troups of local girl scouts, both wanting to help out the local creeks. These moms are awesome - so enthusiastic about getting their kids involved in nature and about teaching them to care for the environment. So excited that we're excited to get them involved.
So Girl Scout Troupe #1 (not their real number), a group of 12 first graders, is dedicating three meetings this year to the creeks. Yesterday was Meeting 1: Learn about why creeks are important and what they can do to help creeks. Next month will be a hands on creek clean-up. And (this is my favorite, these girls are so awesome), the following month will be where the troupe goes class room to class room in their school, teaching the other kids in their school about the importance of healthy creeks in their town and for the environment.
The best part is that I didn't come up with any of this. The girls and the moms came up with this completely on their own, and just contacted us for technical assistance. Heck yeah, I can do that!
Another board member and I spent Saturday morning with these 12 girls and their moms, having a brilliant time. We talked about where water comes from and where it goes, and who lives in the creeks, and who depends on clean water (us!) and what happens to everything that goes down our drains or that we pour on our gardens. You know, the whole deal. And then we spent about an hour rotating between hands on creek activities: a creek art project designed by a mom, and two that we brought: a build a watershed project, and a creek banks make clean water project. Just in case you ever need to talk to 1st graders (or K-4, really), you can find the activities below.
But for now, a big shout out to a group of 12 awesome girls, who know a lot about the world they live in, and who care even more. Looking forward to hanging with you again next month - you rock!
Watershed Activities for kids: adapted with thanks from the Bureau of Land Management Website
Making watersheds activity
Materials: For this activity, you will need various
sizes of rocks ( I like a sand or clean potting soil, some gravel,
and some larger rocks in various sizes) , a shallow plastic
wash basin or tub (the kind you could use as a small wash tub in a sink),
saranwrap or aluminum foil , a blue permanent marker and a brown
or black permanent marker, and a sprinkling can or spray bottle (to simulate
Procedure: After talking with the kids about all the components of a watershed, place
the sand or soil in your tub and have the kids sculpt into hills and valleys. They should make a
low spot at one end for the ocean or lake, and add some rocks in the wash basin to build
mountains. Otherwise, it's all up to their imaginations. When they're done sculpting, cover closely with plastic wrap or foil (mold it over your mountains
and down into your valleys). Ask the students to guess the route
"rainwater" (from the sprinkling can or spray bottle) will take and
where it will pool, run, and be stored. Mark the predicted route or ponds with a blue
permanent marker. Then test the students' predictions by spraying or sprinkling
the area and observing the path of the water.
Watersheds are divided by areas of high elevation. When rain lands on the
ground, it travels downhill to be drained. If water hit a mountaintop or
ridgetop in the model and traveled in more than one direction, it is likely
that there was more than one watershed. How many watersheds did the kids
create in the model? Use the brown/black
marker to circle the watersheds.
Build in some free time to let them experiment with changing up their watersheds. Can they make two or three in the basin?
clean water activity
The discussion here is how healthy, natural creek banks clean and filter water before it gets into our creeks and water supplies. We talk about 1. the first rains of the season, 2. the process by which healthy soil cleans water, and 3. whether healthy soil can also clean/filter man-made pollutants.
Materials: You will need a flower pot with a
drainage hole; some sand, soil, and gravel; a bottle of food coloring, collection containers (small plastic bins work) and some muddy
The first pour is the creek bank at the end of summer, when it hasn't rained in a while, and the soil has dried out. Slowly pour the muddy water over your "creek bank" and catch what comes out the bottom.
Add some extra soil to your creek bank now, if needed, and press it down tight. The tighter you press, the cleaner your water will come out. Keep pouring that muddy water slowly, in batches, through your creek bank. Each pour will come out cleaner than the one before, as your soil particles compress and swell, making a nice thick, tight filter that does an excellent job cleaning up that nasty, muddy water. About three pours later, the creek bed is really starting to filter your water, and provide clean water to fish, insects, plants, and your drinking water plant. This is why it's important to have natural creek banks, and to minimize impervious surfaces (cement, asphalt) near water bodies. Without natural earth, we have no natural filters to provide clean water.
Finally, ask the kids to add a few drops of food coloring to the top of the creek bank. This represents man-made pollutants. Car oil, garden pesticides, medicine that goes down the drain. Have them guess whether their creek bank will remove the pollutant. It may take a couple more batch of muddy water before that food coloring comes through, but it will come through: the creek bank can filter out natural dirt, but since we can't predict that it will filter out all the man-made chemicals, we should be very careful about what we apply to our gardens, or put down our storm drains.