Watershed Teaching Tools Workshop at AFY

This past Saturday about 25 teachers and community members spent the day at AFY to learn ways to teach watershed issues and environmental education to youth. The free workshop, which was presented by Katy Brogan and Martha Berthelsen along with other interns and staff from The Watershed Project, was loaded with curriculum examples, hands-on demonstrations, and a garden tour of AFY’s garden. To learn more about what a watershed is and to view photos from the day scroll down below.

What Is A Watershed? 

The word means a parting, a shedding of waters. But a watershed is also a gathering place. A watershed is measured by the hilltops and ridges that are its boundaries. It is shaped by the hills, valleys, and plains that are the landscape and is tempered by the forests, fields, lakes and marshes that are habitats for its creatures. Most of us know a watershed through its streams and rivers that connect forest with farm, farm with city and city with lake – each of us changes the watershed day by day, bit by bit, as we go about the business of our lives.

A watershed, said Peter Warshall, has “walls of hills and mountains; a floor of river or lake; and roof of rain clouds”. The rain erodes the walls into the watery floor and then evaporates back into the roof. Streams do not always rise in the mountains and flow to the sea. Rain falling on every square inch of land within a watershed contributes to streams as they wind their way downhill. (The rain may flow on the surface of the land, or it may soak into the ground and then flow to a stream, river or lake.)

The critical thing to remember about watersheds is that the rivers, the hills and the bottom lands are all part of a system. Every activity on the land, in the water or even in the air has the potential to effect the watershed system.

A change in the watershed affects our lives – a change that we make in the landscape affects the watershed. It’s all connected. Nature’s changes can be as quiet as branches building up behind a fallen log and changing the path of a stream. Or they can be as dramatic as a winter flood. Our actions, too, can be subtle or very dramatic; but they all affect someone or something. When we cut forests, clear land, lay concrete and asphalt, and build houses and towns we cause changes in the watershed. Those changes mean the water cycle works differently.

Rain striking the ground has fewer place to soak in gradually – run-off is faster and more violent…causing erosion and flooding. Water quality deteriorates as water drains from farms and cities carrying pesticides, animal waste, oil, and heavy metals into our groundwater, streams, lakes, and eventually, oceans.

The activities of your neighbor up the hill will affect what the rain carries into your yard. And what you pour or spread on the ground, what ends up in your septic system or driveway, affects what ends up down stream from you, in the nearest stream or river, in the groundwater, or in the San Francisco Bay. The watershed, the water cycle and our lives are all connected. Any action, anywhere affects the land, the water and ulitimately, us. We all live downstream.

– The Watershed Project Teach Tools Course Reader


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