Third grade students make the best first grade teachers!

Written by Joanna Hoffman, Program Manager

“Usually I’m shy, but today my voice was strong!” third grade student Adrian from Berkeley Arts Magnet (BAM) Elementary School proudly exclaimed. BAM students in Berkeley took responsibility for the health of their watershed by spreading the word about plastic pollution. Kimberley was very excited to be a role model to the first graders. “It was cool to teach the first graders. They really seemed to understand that trash from our streets ends up in the bay through the storm drain system. I taught them that!” After the third grade “teachers” explained their hand-made colorful posters, they led their first grade buddies in a trash clean-up project. Altogether the classes picked up 632 pieces of trash from their schoolyard. “This is really important work,” shared Lina. “Now the first graders can spread the news and those people can spread the news and so on and everyone can help the watershed! Hopefully one day we can all live in a plastic pollution free world!”

Experimenting with Creek Engineering Models

“I think the creek covered in English Ivy looks less healthy because if there’s only one type of plant, there can’t be very many animals living there,” explained Aris, a third grade student from Berkeley Arts Magnet Elementary School. Aris and his classmates learned about creek restoration engineering by comparing historic photographs of creeks to figure out what makes a creek healthy or unhealthy. Using sand box models, the students then investigated how a creek habitat can be drastically changed by human engineering techniques. One student, Hanna shared, “The concrete channel actually increased erosion and then there was no habitat left for the animals! What were people thinking?!”

Students used cardboard pieces to represent creek-side plants in their models. Aris noticed, “I saw that the creek ecosystem is most healthy and has a natural, meandering pathway when there are creek-side plants along it.” This activity taught engineering concepts using model-building and was aligned with Next Generation Science Standards.

Last fall, Aris and his classmates grew native creek-side plant cuttings in their classrooms. This spring, they will use what they learned in their engineering experiments to help restore Strawberry Creek by planting red flowering currant and other native plants along the creek to prevent erosion, create habitat for animals and increase the beauty of the environment.

Learn more about our Environmental Action Projects.

Fifth Grade Five Rs Experts Teach Kindergartners

Inspired by how much her students enjoyed educating their school community through a Storm Drain Rangers Assembly last year, fifth grade teacher Ms. Jean Liu from Forest Park Elementary School in Fremont was excited to teach the Storm Drain Rangers program herself. Using the training and equipment she received from KIDS for the BAY, Ms. Lui guided her students to teach a kindergarten class about how trash travels from the storm drains to the San Francisco Bay and how to use the Five Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot, and Refuse). Ms. Liu shared, “My fifth grade students enjoyed performing the Assembly for the kindergarten classes, and I heard from the kindergarten teachers that they had a great discussion with their students afterwards!” One of Ms. Liu’s students, Xiomara, shared, “The Assembly was important because if kids don’t know this information, our world will be filled with trash. Now they will reduce their trash and keep our world beautiful!” Another student, Rintaro, added, “The Assembly taught me not to be scared of being on stage. The experience was awesome!”

Learn more about our Storm Drain Rangers Program.

Discovering the San Francisco Bay Mermaid

“Can you find the mermaid?” asked KIDS for the BAY Instructor Joanna Hoffman. Jennifer, a fifth grade student from Schilling Elementary School in Newark, exclaimed, “If you look at the San Francisco Bay from above, on the satellite map it looks like a mermaid!” Students were excited to find Newark, their home town, near the mermaid’s “tail” on the map. Another student, Ariel, shared, “I found the Golden Gate Bridge! I think it’s cool that all of the water from our watershed has to go under the bridge to get to the Pacific Ocean.”

Students were excited to build models of the San Francisco Bay mermaid to observe how fresh and salt water mix in the bay to form Ester the Estuary! By adding drops of red food color to their models, students were also able to see how pollution can spread through the bay watershed. Alexia noticed, “If you pollute one body of the water in the bay, the whole estuary becomes polluted!”

Learn more about our Bay Estuary Scientist Classroom Workshops.

Restoring Strawberry Creek with UC Berkeley

DSC_0076“My favorite part of KIDS for the BAY is how you make science fun!” Miykha and her fellow students from Berkeley Arts Magnet and Rosa Parks Elementary Schools had a lot of fun investigating and restoring Strawberry Creek with KIDS for the BAY, UC Berkeley Student Interns, and the Strawberry Creek Restoration Project.

“I’m proud that Gemma and I picked up 171 pieces of trash, because that is 171 fewer pieces of trash in the San Francisco Bay watershed, our home.”

— Charlie, Third Grade Student, Berkeley Arts Magnet School

DSC_0224The third graders first became stewards for their local environmental during their clean-up projects. They were very proud of their efforts to clean up garbage from their school campuses and from Strawberry Creek. Some students took their efforts a step further by creating informational posters about reducing litter to share with their first grade buddies. Alvin and Salma drew a dolphin with plastic garbage around its neck. Alvin explained, “This poster might convince a first grader to never drop plastic on the ground.”

In their creek restoration-engineering lesson, students created mini-creeks with water and sand and investigated how factors such as concrete channels and creek-side plants affect erosion. After the activity, students recommended weeding out invasive English ivy, which has shallow roots that do not hold the soil in place, and planting native plants such as red flowering currants, to control erosion along the banks of Strawberry Creek.

“By incorporating students into campus restoration efforts, we are increasing the number of plants we are able to plant and the amount of trash we can pick up. Seeing school students improve the health of their local ecosystems has been a highlight of my time at UC Berkeley!”

— Dylan Chapple, UC Berkeley PhD Candidate

Students were excited to meet their red flowering currant plants in the fall, transplant them into larger pots and care for them in their classrooms until it was time to plant them beside Strawberry Creek. Luna whispered encouragingly to her plant, “See you in a little while when we go to Strawberry Creek together!”

DSC_0093In January, the school students helped to restore Strawberry Creek on UC Berkeley’s campus. This Environmental Action Project had four stations: planting the red flowering currant plants, weeding out invasive English ivy to make more space for native plants to grow, painting colorful signs to mark the planting projects, and cleaning up trash around the creek.

Students and teachers are now looking forward to their spring Field Trips, when they will return to Strawberry Creek to check on the progress of their plants and engage in hands-on science activities, including studying aquatic invertebrates and water quality testing.

This unique partnership between KIDS for the BAY, UC Berkeley and local Berkeley schools was partly funded by the UC Berkeley Chancellor’s Community Partnership Fund and the East Bay Community Foundation Meyer’s Fund.


Habitat Restoration with Mira Vista School’s Inspired Environmentalists

smile (2)“I hope the bees like these flowers!” exclaimed Rennae, a third grade student from Mira Vista School in Richmond. Students spent a wonderful day in Alvarado Park planting native flowering plants and caring for their local Wildcat Creek. They were very excited to walk to the creek from their school! As they got closer to the creek a student named Jawon commented, “Look! There’s the creek, I can hear it too!”

Jeff McKenna from East Bay Regional Parks District and KIDS for the BAY Instructor John Greiling organized the creek restoration project. Every student planted a native perennial flower, mulched it and watered it. Third grade student Rennae explained, “We are spreading mulch to keep in moisture.” A total of 62 plants were planted and the two plants selected for the project, Penstemon Heterophyllus and Grindelia Hirsutula, have blue and yellow flowers – the same colors as Mira Vista School!

Students enjoyed the opportunity to take action for the creek and teachers were glad to get new ideas on how to use the local watershed habitat as a science teaching resource. Third grade teacher Rachel McLachlan said, “I am excited to bring my class to this spot next year and show them the great work we did. We could also start a new planting site next year!”

This is the third year for the KIDS for the BAY School Wide Watershed Action Program at Mira Vista School. This program was funded by the Dean Witter Foundation and NOAA B-WET and has provided academic enrichment for 480 students and professional development for 14 teachers since 2012. We are proud of our teacher partners, who will continue to teach this program to future classes of students, and make sure that environmental education continues to be part of the curriculum and culture of Mira Vista School.

Taking Action for Arroyo Viejo Creek

RestorationArroyo Viejo Creek, which flows through East Oakland, near Cox Academy School, also flows through the grounds of the Oakland Zoo. Third grade students from Cox Academy had a wonderful experience helping the environment by restoring the creek, and visiting the zoo!

Students used their hands to simulate a watershed and demonstrate how the rain falls and fills creeks like Arroyo Viejo where a diversity of organisms lives. KIDS for the BAY Instructor Aislinn Sterling explained that students would be helping the creek by pulling out weeds. Invasive plants make it difficult for other plants that keep the creek healthy to grow. Students, teachers and parents got to work and discovered all kinds of organisms. They investigated fallen galls from oak trees, mushrooms, spiders and beetles, as they worked to help the creek.

As students walked along the path beside the creek as part of a scavenger hunt they found flowers, blackberry bushes, birds, squirrels, spider webs, bird’s nests and other flora and fauna. Several California newts, with bright orange bellies were discovered in the creek. Ms. Sterling reminded students that these were some of the animals they were helping by keeping the creek healthy!

To end a wonderful day of stewardship, students, parents and teachers visited the zoo. As they studied all the beautiful animals, Ms. Sterling asked the students to identify some possible adaptations. Students named the giraffe’s long tongue and the elephant’s trunk as adaptations that aid in the survival of these organisms.

The visit to the zoo was a wonderful treat for our hardworking scientists and environmentalists from Cox Academy.

Food Chains Rock!

foodchainsrock_250x375Food Chains Rock!

Students from Washington Elementary School in Richmond really enjoyed learning about San Francisco Bay food chains! They learned about apex predators, decomposers, scavengers, the difference between a food chain and a food web, adaptations, and the anatomy of Dungeness crab, striped bass fish, and seaweed. Students were excited to touch seaweed for the first time. Many described it as being gooey and “interesting.” Students were surprised to learn that seaweed is adapted to become completely dry and then rehydrate following the movement of the tides at the rocky shore.

Students were very excited to investigate Dungeness crab and striped bass fish anatomy by touching the animals and answering critical thinking questions.

After their hands-on experiences with different organisms, students learned how all the organisms they investigated are connected to other organisms in San Francisco Bay food chains including humans, and how the health of one organism affects the health of everything in the food chain.

Reiley shared, “Today I learned that seaweed does not have roots, it has holdfasts. And if seaweed gets dried out from the sun it can rehydrate.”

Natalia shared, “Today I learned that crabs have tails[abdomens]. Male crabs have a triangle shaped tail and females have a “U” shaped tail.”

Malaysha shared, “I learned from KIDS for the BAY that a female Dungeness Crab can hold 2.5 million babies!”

From Images to Action!

fromimagestoactionFourth graders at Lupine Hills Elementary School in Hercules were surprised to see the impact trash can have on bay and ocean organisms. After they discussed and analyzed the images of animals harmed by marine debris, KIDS for the BAY Instructor Aislinn Sterling asked the class why they thought she showed them these pictures and why scientists would take pictures like these.

A student named Victor said, “I think these images help people understand why pollution is such a serious problem”. Another student observed, “The picture of the turtle makes me sad because it makes me think of my own pet turtle at home.” Ms. Sterling agreed with them and said that sometimes seeing pictures—especially of things we care about like animals—makes an issue feel more real and inspires people to take action to protect the environment. After the lesson, students were excited to participate in a Clean-Up of their school and neighborhood and be part of the solution to the problem of marine debris. Students were surprised to discover they picked up 857 pieces of trash between their two classes!

After the lesson, students wrote what they had learned, these are some of their responses:

“Today I learned that marine debris is really bad for animals.  If we litter animals can eat it and die or get stuck. We should not litter. If you were an animal you would not want to get stuck or die so don’t litter.” –Arianna M

“Today I learned that marine debris means ocean trash.  Marine debris is bad for animals. It can kill them, but you can help by cleaning up anywhere you see trash.” –Kiara

“Today I learned that garbage and pollution can go in storm drains and become marine debris that can hurt animals.” –Leilani

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