Mar 22, 2024

Education Highlight: Watershed Week with One Cool Earth 

The Estuary Program is partnering with One Cool Earth, a local environmental nonprofit, on multiple projects this year. This blog by One Cool Earth expands on one of those projects to bring more watershed education lessons to students across San Luis Obispo County. You can learn more about One Cool Earth in this blog from fall 2023. 

One Cool Earth is a San Luis Obispo-based nonprofit that creates school garden programs that grow happy, healthy, and smart youth. With over 25 gardens from San Miguel to Guadalupe, the organization aims to increase environmental literacy across the Central Coast. By developing culturally relevant and engaging lessons, students begin to understand the importance of their actions and can take steps to spread awareness to their peers and communities.

Watershed Week with One Cool Earth and the Estuary Program

One Cool Earth curriculum is divided into three pillars: Food, Water, and Waste. About one third of the curriculum focuses on water and water-wise concepts. These lessons emphasize the importance of water for food production in the school gardens and on larger scales. We encourage water conservation by bringing awareness to how we use water in our homes and how we can better capture stormwater through Low Impact Design. Our water-wise lessons also dive into watershed stewardship, where our partnership with the Estuary Program to support Watershed Week began.  

During Watershed Week, our team of 14 Garden Educators taught our ‘Living in Our Watershed’ lesson at our 25 partner schools on the Central Coast. In this lesson, students learned about watershed stewardship and observed how water and pollution runoff can infiltrate landscapes. They also investigated watershed habitats and explored relationships that contribute to the health of our watersheds. Our education team taught these lessons in the school’s gardens, using the space and hands-on activities to bring the lesson to life.

One Cool Earth educators used a watershed model during Watershed Week to show students how water and pollution move through a watershed and can impact downstream estuaries like Morro Bay. Photo courtesy of One Cool Earth. 

Watershed Week Challenge

After each lesson in the garden during Watershed Week, our educators distributed ‘Watershed Week Challenge Sheets’ to each student. These challenge sheets listed six actionable ways students and their caregivers could reduce their impact on our estuary and local watersheds. Each student who returned the challenge sheet to their Garden Educator received a One Cool Earth lunch bag and an MPA Collaborative Coloring Book. One Cool Earth strives not only to teach students about our waters and their importance but also to provide them with the opportunities and tools to take action to protect themselves and create a better world.  

Since Watershed Week, we have rewarded hundreds of watershed stewards with a lunch bag and built the foundation for thousands more watershed stewards to come.  

The Watershed Week Challenge connected lessons learned about watersheds with how to be stewards of the Morro Bay watershed and beyond. Photo courtesy of One Cool Earth.

Watershed Education Training with the Estuary Program

Before Watershed Week in February, the Estuary Program led One Cool Earth Educators in a watershed training, after which our team of educators was buzzing with inspiration. We collaborated with the team at the Estuary Program to develop a training that would best serve our educators and their work. The training focused on understanding our region’s land-to-sea relationship and how to best communicate the connection to students through engaging presentations, activities, and visual aids. We received an abundance of valuable resources that we went on to share with teachers, school communities, and students.  

For the training, the Estuary Program staff led Garden Educators through a presentation using the Enviroscape Watershed Model. It was beneficial as each educator received a smaller version of this model to bring to their school sites! Some of our educators even got to borrow the Estuary Program’s large Enviroscape model for teaching during Watershed Week. We were so happy to use this amazing visual aid to teach this lesson. By using it, educators could see students grasping this complex concept of a watershed. 

One Cool Earth Educators learning about watershed education in the Morro Bay watershed from Estuary Program staff. Photo courtesy of One Cool Earth.

Educational Kayaking Adventure

In addition to training our education team on how to bridge watershed concepts to K-6 grade students, the Estuary Program also took us kayaking in the Morro Bay estuary! It was a perfect sunny spring day with calm waters. We found a bunch of eelgrass and two sea hares, and were entranced by a log covered in gooseneck barnacles for a good while. Our One Cool Earth team values times when we get to be curious and drop into the wonder of nature together. It was meaningful to spend time on and around these beautiful waters that we had dedicated a week of education to protecting.

The educational kayaking day with Estuary Program helped Educators connect with the Morro Bay estuary, explore various habitats, and spark inspiration to pass along to the next generation of watershed and environmental stewards. Photo courtesy of One Cool Earth.  

One Cool Earth Legacy

We hope to expand our program to more schools across the Central Coast through the creation of a new Early Childhood Enrichment Program called Play Grove, as well as 6-12th grade lessons. All of our teaching materials are free on our YouTube channel in both English and Spanish, and program updates can be found on our Facebook and Instagram, or through our monthly e-newsletter signup on our website.

Help us protect and restore the Morro Bay estuary!