Watershed Explorers Program - San Diego, CA

by San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy
Activity Type: Hiking, Stewardship, Water Activities, Other
Region: Pacific West

The purpose of the Watershed Explorers Program is to provide an opportunity for students to get outdoors and learn about watersheds.

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Please describe your project in more detail.

The whole purpose of the Watershed Explorers Program is is to encourage kids from park-poor communities to safely engage with the natural environment through physical and educational activities.  We have the track record to show that we are doing just that!

We are excited about the impact our collective efforts are having on underserved communities and individuals. The following groups have benefited from the Program since January 2016: 67 10th graders from High Tech High and 10 students from Monroe Clark Middle School. On May 17 and 19, 20 students from Springall Academy in La Mesa, a school that serves children with special needs will participate in the Watershed Explorers Program. In May, 12 students from Monroe Clark Middle School in City Heights will embark on a trip to Mission Trails Park & Lake Hodges. We are finalizing plans to serve 60 students from the Boys and Girls Club in June, and 12 Girl Scouts from Solana Beach in August. In total, 181 students will be served from January 1, 2016 through August 2016, as part of the Watershed Explorers Program.

Students visit different areas with diverse wildlife and habitat types and focus on different themes within the watershed, starting at the headwaters on Volcan Mountain then heading west to Lake Sutherland, the San Diego Archaeological Center, Sikes Adobe Historic Farmstead/Lake Hodges and finally, the award-winning Birdwing Open Air Classroom at the San Dieguito Lagoon.

The momentum of the Watershed Explorers Program is moving at lightning speed and we need additional support to implement programs at each of the sites listed below:

Activities at Volcan Mountain (VMF) - Students will observe the watershed from the top of the Sky Island Trail. We will stop at the year round spring that feeds the San Dieguito River. At the Nature Center property they will explore the riparian habitat and its inhabitants. There they will use a hands-on watershed map. We will test the water for its ability to support the life in the watershed. We will finish with a reflective moment at the Watershed Trail streambed.  
Activities at Lake Sutherland (SDRVC) - Students will learn about the importance of this area to overall watershed vitality and health. They will be introduced to monitoring and management efforts being conducted within the San Dieguito watershed and become citizen scientists for the day collecting valuable data for the SDRP. Specifically, they will get hands on experience with water quality testing, mammal tracking & camera traps, and herp surveys.  

Activities at San Diego Archeological Center (San Diego Archaeological Center) - The objectives of this program are to introduce students to the cultural history of the region, including the use of natural resources in the valley. An important scientific tool (observation and inference) will be taught and practiced. The importance of preserving and protecting archaeological sites will be emphasized.  

Activities at the Sikes Adobe Historic Farmstead (SDRP/Independent Contractor) – Students will learn what it was like to be a pioneering family, how the community functioned through crop production, trading and animals that provided food and milk, and the importance of the natural environment in daily living.  

Activities at the San Dieguito Lagoon (SDRP) - The students will engage in six stations to learn about the importance and diversity of the lagoon. They will observe the diversity of birds found at the lagoon and utilize plant materials collected from the Lagoon to create artwork giving them the opportunity to express their nature experience through art.

Students will study animal skulls to learn more about the animals found in the Park. Topics will include predator-prey relationships, animal habitat adaptations, and classification. Students will observe lagoon aquatic species up close while ecologists discuss their significance. A Park Ranger will discuss the importance of the lagoon ecosystem and history of the 115-acre San Dieguito Tidal Wetland Restoration. Students will test water samples from different locations at the lagoon. Samples will be tested using instruments for pH, dissolved oxygen and salinity. Students will be led on an interactive walk along the Lagoon Trail observing and discussing the natural history of the Park. Students will use the SDRP App to locate, identify and report plant and animal sightings. 

How many kids (grades K-8) will be directly engaged in this project?

180 to 200 per year.

What is the name or school district associated with the project?

We work with all school districts, boys & girls clubs, girl and boy scouts, and other organizations.