Students tour local watersheds with GCWIN
Middle school students from the East Grand School District (EGSD) have had an exciting week of fieldtrips over the last several days as part of Grand County Water Information Network’s (GCWIN) annual Watershed Week.
Sarah Hershfelt , Education Coordinator for GCWIN explained the purpose of the yearly fieldtrips. “The whole goal is to get the kids informed about the importance of their local watersheds,” Hershfelt said. “We are creating environmental stewardship in our community and educating children at a younger age that we have a responsibility to take care of our watershed.”
Hershfelt went on to explain that part of Watershed Week’s focus is on the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineer and Math) fields of study and the hope that Watershed Week will inspire some students to pursue those fields as careers later in life. “We are trying to get kids more involved in STEM,” she said. “We want kids to go into college in those types of fields and come back to Grand County and fill positions in the water and environmental resource sector.”
The Watershed Week fieldtrips have become an annual tradition for students in Grand County with GCWIN hosting fieldtrips for sixth, seventh and eighth grade students from both the East and West Grand School District every fall. In Grand County the week kicks off with sixth-graders from the East Grand Middle School (EGMS) touring the Grand Lake area early in the week.
On Wednesday Sept. 21 seventh-grade students from eastern Grand County headed to Fraser to collect bugs and fish specimens before heading up to Second Creek on Berthoud Pass to review watersheds in alpine settings. On Thursday eighth-graders headed down to Granby’s water treatment plant to examine the mechanisms used to treat and clean water in the valley.
The field trips for the EGSD are held the week immediately following West Grand’s Watershed Week. For West Grand GCWIN takes sixth-grade students to Pumphouse on the Colorado River where they hear from representatives from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) before heading to Wolford Mountain Reservoir for a tour of the reservoir’s dam.
West Grand’s seventh-graders tour the Grand River Ranch for a day, reviewing agriculturally focused water uses, management practices and storage methods. The seventh-grade students from West Grand also tour Reeder Creek with Jon Ewert, Aquatic Biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Ewert works closely with GCWIN for the Watershed Week fieldtrips, helping to collect and catalogue fish species with the students from both West and East Grand, on Reeder Creek and the Fraser River.
Ewert praised the educational work done by GCWIN and the Watershed Week project. “They make a big educational effort in the County,” Ewert said. “I love doing it. It is pretty rewarding to take the seventh graders out and show them what is in the stream that flows right through their backyard.” Ewert has assisted GCWIN with their Watershed Week fieldtrips since the programs inception in 2010.
The eighth-graders from West Grand also participate in Watershed Week, touring the water treatment plant in Kremmling and traveling to the confluence of the Blue River and the Colorado River to conduct water chemistry tests and compare the two watersheds. The eighth-grade students then head to the Blue Valley Ranch to review stream habitat on the ranch with hydrologists from the BLM.
The folks at GCWIN rely heavily on grants to provide funding for the Watershed Week fieldtrips. Grants go to purchase waders used by the students during the field trips and things like chemical testing kits to be used for analyzing water. The organization also works to secure grants to cover bussing costs for the local school districts. All of this is done with the hope of sparking excitement with students about possible future professions.
“We are trying to get the kids out in the field, mimicking the actual jobs done in our watershed,” said Hershfelt.
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