Watershed Watchers at the Twisp Ponds - Spring 2014
The Watershed Watchers program has been providing a unique outdoor educational experience to local school children for more than a decade. Since 2007, Methow Salmon Recovery Foundation has hosted Watershed Watchers at the Twisp Ponds Discovery Center.
On two occasions in the spring, 46 third graders from the Methow Valley Elementary School visited the Twisp Ponds as part of the Watershed Watchers program.
These budding scientists were engaged in a “Floods and Floodplains” study unit developed by Watershed Watchers and integrated with the Washington State Common Core learning standard related to natural disasters. The Twisp Ponds site provided a perfect location to take this learning into the field.
A primary concept of this study was an examination of the beneficial and detrimental effects of floods. The students learned that, while floods can be destructive, they can also be beneficial. Floodplains were highlighted as a key habitat type that depends on flooding.
Students visited the Twisp Ponds twice – once before the spring floods had begun and once again during high water. This allowed the students to examine the differences in a suite of habitat features over the course of changing water levels.
At the site, Watershed Watchers program lead Robert Crandall (Methow Natives), local scientists Brian Fisher (MSRF), John Crandall (MSRF/Confluence Aquatics), Jennifer Molesworth (Bureau of Reclamation), Kirsten Kirkby (Yakama Nation), Crystal Eliot (Trout Unlimited), and Tara Gregg (MSRF) staffed four stations that focused in on specific aspects of floodplain ecology.
The students studied riparian soils (pictured right), the importance of shade for streams, and the elements of fish habitat. One group estimated flow rates in a stream channel using simple math, a floating orange, and channel measurements.
Another station saw the students up to something no Watershed Watchers class had ever done before. The lesson was to explore side channels and their function as fish habitat. On the first visit, the side channel of the Twisp River was dry, and the students examined elements that could provide habitat for fish.
On the second visit, during high water, John assisted each group in putting on waders to walk up the same side channel (top picture). As they sloshed through the water, the students took water depth and temperature measurements, wrote down their observations in their field journals, and compared them to their observations recorded during their first visit.
To complete the field study, groups of students made posters at the Ponds Discovery Center about what they learned from their stations, and then orally presented them to the rest of their class.
A key component of the Watershed Watchers program is to provide students with hands-on science experience using the outdoors as a classroom. Integrating Watershed Watchers programs with Common Core learning standards has helped build engagement and support for the program from local schools.
We look forward to further development and integration of Watershed Watchers into local school curriculums, and to further building outdoor education in the Methow Valley.