When the watershed comes alive

When the watershed comes alive
Posted on 05/03/2018

As water poured over the Whatcom Watershed District’s hands-on model, fourth-grade students at Bernice Vossbeck Elementary School saw in real-time the power of erosion and the benefit of proper vegetation.

The model was just one part of a unit on how a watershed works, using the local watershed as an example. Anne Marie Peach, fourth-grade teacher at BVE, says this is the first year the unit has made its way to BVE after years of success at both Fisher and Isom. Coinciding with a unit on salmon and the Nooksack River, the watershed unit includes hands-on activities both on campus and off.

A representative from the Whatcom Watershed District took students outside to the playground and they worked together to learn about water runoff, storm drains and how differing surfaces impact the way water moves. The second session included models the size of a camper trailer. As water poured onto a topographical map of Whatcom County, students saw how the water flowed throughout the county, able to witness how Lynden fit into the greater equation. The other model included a river with one bank full of vegetation and the other bare.

As the presentation unfolded, students saw in just 15 minutes how quickly the bare bank eroded. “It showed what happens if there is no vegetation holding the soil in place,” Peach says. “Seeing it is just a big difference.”

Following the on-campus activities, student worked with the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association to plant trees along Lynden’s Fishtrap Creek, a project made more poignant by the watershed lesson.

“The kids are more involved than just sitting and talking about it and looking at it in books,” Peach says. “The models relate to where the kids live.”

The combination of the salmon and watershed units culminates with all four fourth-grade classes at BVE taking field trips in May to Padilla Bay to learn more about water areas, habitat, animals and vegetation.

“The science has been focused,” Peach says. “It drives it home.”