From the Classroom

What is a Watershed Classroom Teacher?

McNear 4th Graders work with STRAW and Friends of the Petaluma River to clear out invasive ivy.

McNear 4th Graders work with STRAW and Friends of the Petaluma River to clear out invasive ivy.

A Watershed Classroom teacher is supported with funds, field trips, materials, and resources, as they incorporate the local environment into their curriculum and classroom. 

When Eric Backman, Principal at Casa Grande and board member of Friends of the Petaluma River, first envisioned the program he very much wanted it to be teacher driven. Teachers know their strengths and what they do best; they know how they best build curriculum, modify it and adjust to fit their current students; and they know how to best facilitate a rich learning environment.  With this in mind, the Watershed Classroom was designed to honor teachers’ unique strengths by allowing them to build their own projects and curriculum, while being supported throughout its implementation. The Watershed Classroom help teachers by providing resources, connecting teachers with experts in various fields, lend water-testing kits to the classroom, lead field trips to Steamer Landing and the David Yearsley River Heritage Center. Our goal is to strengthen the teacher-developed projects.

Learning about the Petaluma River, engaging with it, investigating and testing the water, facilitates a relationship between the student and their local environment. It is this relationship that promotes a more thoughtful, respectful perspective, as the students become watershed stewards themselves.


"If something's broken, fix it,” says Genie Praetzel a Watershed Classroom teacher from McDowell. “If animals are endangered, we need to take care to protect them. If our river is becoming polluted, we need to clean it up. This year the over arching essential question in our classroom has been, "what can you do to make a difference?" My students have embraced this challenge in every way."

It is always so exciting to watch students develop a sense of ownership and responsibility for our environment, and for this we are so thankful for to the Watershed Classroom teachers.