Water is life.  That is the title of a curriculum module I wrote in partnership with EL Education for Achieve the Core, an online source of classroom resources for educators.  Teaching students about water, water conservation, and watersheds is deeply important to me.  We all need clean water to survive.  It is one of the most fundamental elements that connect us to the more than human world, no matter where we live.  With water scarcity escalating and clean water sources dwindling, it is more important than ever to have an understanding of where our water comes from and how it sustains us.


Back in 2005, I had an opportunity to teach at a high school institute with EL Education in Portland, Oregon.  We had a wide variety of teachers attending, from math and science to special ed, from all across the country.  The topic for the institute was the study of local watersheds.  We opened the institute with a simple question: what is a watershed?  Despite the diversity of educators in attendance, very few people knew the answer to this question.  This, in itself, was a little disconcerting given that we all live in a watershed.  How can we teach our children about caring for the environment, and our local watersheds, if we have no concept of what a watershed is?


During the course of the institute, the educators learned all about the local watershed, water quality, the impacts of urbanization on the health of watersheds, and the importance of local restoration initiatives.  By the end, everyone in attendance was convinced that every student should learn about watersheds.  Most importantly, they saw the power of using the watershed as a context for place-based learning.  I know that many of those educators returned to their schools and used what they learned to redesign their science and social science classes.  What better way to help students understand that everything is, indeed, connected and dependent upon each other.


This edition of GreenNotes highlights some exciting watershed and water conservation efforts occurring in schools and districts across the country.  You will read about the ocean-friendly gardens at a Virginia Beach elementary school; how a New York school uses its neighboring river to not only teach core subjects but instill a sense of place in its students; and how schools are implementing watershed-based projects as part of their involvement in Green Apple Day of Service.  In addition, you will learn how EarthEcho International and Caring for Our Watersheds are engaging students in project-based learning around stormwater management and watersheds, respectively; how rivers are used to teach about geography and creative writing as related by the Global Oneness Project; and how a nonprofit in Wisconsin is helping schools adopt green infrastructure.


Our watersheds sustain and connect us to our neighbors, whether they live in the next county over, the state next door, or a country on the other side of the ocean.  By imparting this critical lesson to our students, we are giving them the foundation from which to restore and sustain life for their children and future generations.


Until October,