In October of 2012, Gratiot Conservation District Administrator, Julie Spencer taught lessons about watersheds to local middle school and high school classes in Gratiot County using the Enviroscape Watershed Model.
Depending on where the kids live within Gratiot County, they fall within one of three watersheds: the Maple River Watershed, the Pine River Watershed or the Shiawassee River Watershed. They learned about sub-watersheds as well as where the water travels on its way to the Great Lakes and then on to the Atlantic Ocean.
The Enviroscape Watershed Model is a unique tool that gives kids a hand-on approach to learning about watersheds and the things that affect the watershed where they live. Kids were taught how to define and identify the watershed in which they live, the types of activities and pollutants that affect watersheds, and what they can do to keep their watershed pristine.
The kids used cocoa powder to learn about soil erosion, green sugar sprinkles to learn about pesticides and fertilizers, and soy sauce to learn about oil spills and other environmental pollutants. They also learned different techniques that can help to hold soil in place and keep pesticides and fertilizers in the locations where they were applied rather than flowing into the groundwater or directly into streams and lakes. Conservation practices such as planting grassed waterways, filter strips and buffer strips along streams, using silt screens and rain gardens and building fences around pasture lands to keep cattle out of streams.
Ask the kids what was their favorite part about the activity and they will probably tell you that it was fun to use the spray water bottles to make it ‘rain’!
The lessons were well-received and an excellent supplement to the regular science curriculum. The District is in the process of trying to secure funding to purchase an Enviroscape Watershed Model so that this important program can continue.