Author: Stacy Wolff
Contributed by Stacy Wolff, K-5 Science Lab Teacher, Flagstaff Academy
Much like a drop of water that falls as precipitation in our mountains and continues on its journey through our watershed, my journey that brought me to the first Front Range Watershed Days was just as exciting. As a science teacher and former wildlife biologist, I have always felt a connection to my community. Two years ago, I noticed a gap in my student’s sense of place regarding water, so I obtained my Master’s degree focused on watershed science and placed- based education with the intent to bring this content into my classroom. Throughout that time, I was fortunate enough to meet several community members during the Recovery to Resilience Flood Tour in 2018 sponsored by Water Education Colorado. It was during this event that I first met staff members from the Left Hand Watershed Center (LHWC) and it left a lasting impression with me.
Fast forward to September 2019 and I was excited to share my knowledge of our local watersheds with my students. The Front Range Watershed Days was the perfect way to do so. Scientists were hosting a Bio-Blitz for citizen scientists (the general public) in four different watersheds to collect data to understand the scope of watershed health in our region. It was great to just show up and feel like I was already a part of a community with folks from the Left Hand Watershed Center, a landowner whom I met during the Flood Tour, and grandparents of one of my Kindergarten students.
I was happy to have the opportunity to help with the Bio-Blitz in the morning and to learn new techniques for surveying the health of a stream from an abiotic perspective. A chilly morning of work donning hip waders brought back fond memories of wetland research, and my husband and I worked with local experts to measure the sizes of cobbles in the river to estimate stream characteristics. We also surveyed the river for macroinvertebrates before heading to LaVern M. Johnson Park in Lyons. When I arrived at the park, I was thrilled not only to see more familiar faces, but also to learn how Lyons Elementary School has partnered with LHWC to integrate place-based learning in their schools. There were a variety of organizations present showcasing their educational tools and research. While mingling in the park, I looked up and saw one of my fifth graders from our student-led Green Team club walking toward me with her mother. They had just moved to our area so it was especially fulfilling to know that two more people were establishing a connection to our scarce resource. My student shared with me that her favorite part of the day was working with a scientist to collect stream flow data.
I could say that the icing on the cake for the event was the beautiful dessert that featured a model river system with chocolate beaver analogs, but it really was the knowledge that there are so many people in our community who care about our water. I look forward to the second annual Front Range Watershed Days in 2020!