The Sustainable Schools and Clean Water programs at RE Sources for Sustainable Communities joined forces in 2016 to launch Young Water Stewards for high school students in rural Whatcom County, helping them develop an understanding of their local watersheds and how to be a steward of clean water.
This spring, almost 200 high school students from Blaine participated in the Young Water Stewards training. Students learned how watersheds function through an interactive watershed model, learned how to conduct water quality testing, toured their local watershed to learn about different types of pollution, learned tips for how to protect the health of their local watershed, and took part in a stewardship project.
Field notes from the North Sound Baykeeper
By Lee First, North Sound Baykeeper
Spending 5 full days — with 7 classes per day — with Blaine High School students during the last week of their school year was not something I knew how to prepare for. I know a lot about the watersheds and pollution issues in Whatcom County — but working with 200 students during the last week of school? I let our Sustainable Schools staff figure out the details, and went along for the ride.
We started the Young Water Stewards program by asking each student to fill out survey telling us what they knew about watersheds, and asking them to draw a watershed. Almost all of them drew a small building, sometimes next to water or with a tap. After a quick discussion about what a watershed ACTUALLY is, we split each class into two groups. Half of them stayed inside to listen to a presentation on watersheds, and other other half headed outside to build a watershed model.
This model is an effective way to showcase a watershed, especially in Whatcom County. The students were aware that most of the water in the Nooksack River starts from snow melt on glaciers on Mount Baker. But what they didn’t know was that the watershed where they lived was not part of the Nooksack watershed – it’s part of the Drayton Harbor watershed, and their subwatershed is Cain Creek. Most of them didn’t know that water carried pollutants from the land along with it.
It was a hot day, and the water bottles were a hit. Water sprayed on the high point turned into tributaries, slowing down in areas that represented wetlands. The chocolate sprinkles and glitter flowed downstream, some farm animals got their feet wet, and a lot of sprinkles, dirt and glitter (aka pollution) ended up downstream.
Touring Cain Creek
The next day, we toured Cain Creek, a local salmon-bearing stream. The students loaded on the school bus, and I was the tour guide. Leaving the city of Blaine, we discussed what kind of pollutants were in stormwater and where the stormwater goes (answer: Cain Creek).
Testing water quality
Taking on stewardship of storm drains