Introducing the Watershed Classroom!
Spring, 2013, marks the beginning of an ambitious educational project which aims to see every student in Petaluma at every grade-level learning about the Petaluma Watershed. The goal envisions Petaluma’s kindergartners through high school seniors learning some aspect of science and social studies, English, and even math, through hands-on, project-based lessons that have been designed by their teachers with a focus on the River and the Watershed.
Partnering with Petaluma City Schools and the Sonoma County Water Agency, Friends of the Petaluma River (FOPR) has taken the first critical step toward realizing this goal by successfully launching the Petaluma Watershed Curriculum Project. Outreach to local educators began in the Fall, with Stephanie Bastianon, FOPR’s new Executive Director, and Board Members, Elizabeth Howland and Eric Backman, visiting nearly every school in the district, presenting to faculties and administrators about the project and its aim to see multidisciplinary curriculum developed at every grade level to introduce Petaluma youth to the wonders of our Watershed. Curriculum proposals have been accepted from interdisciplinary teacher-teams at both Petaluma and Casa Grande High School and from teachers at McDowell and Cherry Valley Elementary schools. During the 2013-14 school year, these teachers will implement science, social studies and English curriculum that will allow hundreds of students from four different schools in the district to engage in hands-on, project-based field studies in the Watershed. Students will test water quality, study ecology and environmental impact studies, as well as key historical developments related to the Petaluma River.
In 2014, educators throughout California will begin teaching new the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Unlike the previous California Standards, which placed considerable emphasis on rote memorization and fill-in-the-blank tests, the CCSS focus primarily on students’ development of 21st century skills like critical thinking, argumentation, reading informational text and collaborative problem solving.
During this educational shift, the Petaluma Watershed Curriculum Project has sought to build partnerships between Petaluma’s teachers and local environmental organizations and agencies to support the design of Common Core-ready curriculum that focuses students’ attention on the Watershed. The Project seeks to ensure that the next generations of Petalumans are geo-literate, that is, understanding of their place in the world and society and the role that geography plays in determining one’s culture, economics, and life-style. For Petalumans, our River and Watershed have largely defined our common past as a Rivertown. In Petaluma today, and throughout the whole North Bay, there is a growing appreciation for the Watershed’s vast and complex ecology, and recreational, cultural and economic value. The Petaluma Watershed Curriculum Project will help ensure that future generations understand the Watershed as an intrinsic geographic feature essential to our quality of life and our common future.