The Napa Group to Take Part in Wetland's Watershed Explorers Program, by Chris Benz

The American Canyon Wetlands are a marvelous place to be on a May morning: open, expansive views over the marshes, the tang of saltwater from the incoming tide, and a cacophony of birdsong. They are also a dynamic classroom for the fourth graders from Donaldson Way Elementary who will spend time here today as part of the Watershed Explorers program put on by the American Canyon Community and Parks Foundation (ACCPF). (Image caption: Local 4th Graders in the Watershed Explorers Program learning about wastewater treatment at one of the stations. Photo credit: Chris Benz)

All 300 plus fourth graders in American Canyon go through the Watershed Explorers program which was started in 2019. The three-part series is focused on protecting and learning about our watersheds. The field day takes place in the Wetlands along the Bay Trail where students visit different “learning booths” hosted by community organizations. They learn about the diversity of shorebirds, songbirds, and raptors in the area with the Napa-Solano Audubon Society. The Napa County Resource Conservation District teaches about plankton, including throwing plankton nets in the water to pull up plankton samples for a closer look. Students learn how the first peoples used the natural resources of the wetlands from the Suscol Intertribal Council. And the American Canyon Wastewater Treatment plant, located nearby, lets students see how water is transformed from sewage to clean water in the ponds attached to the wetlands.

Starting next fall, the Napa Group will participate in Watershed Explorers with a lesson on the climate and environmental benefits of the wetlands, thanks to funding provided by the Rohloff bequest. The Sierra Club’s “San Francisco Bay Alive” campaign will serve as the educational resource for our hands-on learning experience. This campaign is a joint project of the three Sierra Club Chapters that encircle the Bay: the Loma Prieta Chapter, the San Francisco Bay Chapter, and the Redwood Chapter. The campaign includes education, grassroots activism, and advocacy to protect and enhance Bay ecosystems and build community and regional resilience to sea level rise. (Image caption: Learning about Plankton with Eric McKee of the Napa County Resource District. Photo credit: Chris Benz)

Back to the fourth graders. They had walked over a mile from their school and were still full of energy when they ran up to the Wastewater Treatment Plant’s booth. “What did you see on the way here?” they were asked. “Egrets!” “Turtles!” “An otter nest!” came the excited replies. “This is the very first field trip for some of these students, because of the Covid years,” explained Joy Hilton, ACCPF Education Director. Needless to say, the students were fascinated by how bacteria could take “poo water” and make it clean enough for the swan families in the neighboring ponds.

Getting our community’s youth out into the natural environment by giving them real-world, hands-on learning from local experts, where they learn about healthy ecosystems, water quality, and plant and animal lifecycles is what real education is about. As such, through the involvement of Napa Group with this wonderful educational program, we hope that we can be a part of guiding our young people in to becoming future stewards of our watersheds.