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The “Stormwater Stewards” program is designed to compel middle school and high school teachers and their students to become active stewards of watershed resources in order to protect herring, and eel living in the Taunton River Watershed (TRW).

This experience will serve to first provide professional development (content and pedagogy) in watershed protection and restoration; and second, to generate new, inquiry-based curriculum for students. Furthermore, participating teachers will join the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) and engage their students in daily weather through manual and automated observations within their own school districts.

The intended outcome is for students, teachers and community members to gain a better understanding of their watershed and why clean, barrier-free watersheds are so essential to healthy fisheries.

Specifically, this program aims to: 

  • Create a new, inquiry-based curriculum on watershed protection for middle and high school students that is aligned with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
  • Create Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences (MWEE) for teachers and students that tie into the new curriculum and promote science exploration and stewardship.
  • Increase the number of students pursuing career paths in STEM disciplines.
  • Increase student involvement in local water resource and fishery habitat stewardship projects.
  • Conduct teacher/student educational outreach programming to local communities.
  • Implement a portable water quality lending lab to support school districts.
  • Increase teacher, student and community understanding and appreciation of the importance of clean, healthy and barrier-free watersheds to fishery resources.

In 2016, The Bridgewater State University Watershed Lab received funding for their Stormwater Stewards program through the NOAA B-WET grant.

In the Stormwater Explorers program, students will be recruited from Taunton and New Bedford will work in teams to conduct science exploration while using the Vernier Monitoring System to explore parking lot hydrology, water quality and MWEE field trips to explore aquatic insect communities and eel populations of either the Nemasket or Mill Rivers.

Both are tributaries of the Taunton River and important to river herring and American eels using the TRW. The Nemasket River has traditionally been the largest herring fishery in Massachusetts and the Mill River has recently had three dam removal and modification projects to restore the herring and eel fishery. The Explorers summer program will not only serve to test the newly developed curriculum on selected students, but will provide an opportunity to train the students to be project leaders in their schools.

We will also use the summer program to gain additional feedback on its impact on increasing student interest in STEM careers and further watershed stewardship activities in their districts. Understanding of stormwater impacts on water quality, stream ecology and diadromous fish will be assessed with a pre and post-test as well as a survey of their interests and perceptions from their one-week experience.

Students will also demonstrate their expertise during a presentation of finding at the end of the week to a panel of experts, fellow participants and family members.

We recruited six teachers to participate in the professional development workshops, including four from Global Learning Charter Public School (GLCPS) in New Bedford and two from Taunton High School. We delivered three Professional Development workshops on August 27,  September 10 and September 17 at Bridgewater State University (BSU).

After completion of the first round of PD workshops, BSU Watershed Access Lab staff worked with 5 of the 6 teachers to select dates in October and December to implement the MWEE on Parking Lot Hydrology and Water Quality at their schools or at the Bridgewater State Watershed Access Lab. Teachers engaged their students in storm water testing by using Vernier Lab Quest systems to analyze samples from a local storm drain in their school parking lot and/or from the stormwater monitoring system at the BSU Watershed Access Lab.

MWEE field trips for Global Learning Charter High School and Middle School classes occurred at the Sawmill Park in Acushnet.  Students were able to view active fish ladders, sample and count glass eels, sample and identify aquatic macroinvertebrates and measure stream water quality using Vernier Lab Quest units during April. Taunton High School classes MWEE field trip occurred in early May. The MWEE for the Taunton students took place at the Oliver Mills Park and the Wareham Street fish ladder in Middleborough. Taunton students were not able to participate in the glass eel counts but focused instead on returning river herring as well as performing aquatic macroinvertebrate sampling and ID and utilizing the Vernier Lab Quest units to assess water quality.

Dr. Rob Hellström worked with GLCPS high school students to install the first RX-300 weather monitoring system at GLCPS high school and a CoCoRaHS rain and snow gage outside the classroom window in preparation for the Year 2 emphasis on stormwater monitoring of weather and uploading data into the CoCoRaHs network.

We collaborated with Jim Turek, NOAA Restoration Ecologist, NOAA Restoration Center, Narragansett, RI and Sara Turner, Diadromous Fish Biologist, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, New Bedford, MA in the Spring 2017 MWEE focused on diadromous fish, water quality and stream barriers.

Stormwater Steward monitoring projects were presented by each class at BSU in one day forums on June 4 and June 11, 2019. Each student seminar session was open to members of each school’s community. Students from the 5th grade from Taunton Friedman Middle School, the 4th and 5th grade from Sgt. William Carney Academy in New Bedford and the 9th grade from Global Learning Charter Public School in New Bedford gave presentations on different parts of the NOAA curriculum they implemented with their teachers during the academic year.  Topics ranged from life cycle characteristics of important diadromous fish, watersheds, importance of local storm-weather monitoring to water quality and discoveries made during Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences (MWEE’s).

Trained teachers will implement the Stormwater Stewards curriculum including selected modules from Estuaries 101 and Watersheds, Floods and Pollution for a second year.

A new group of 20 student-leaders are recruited for the Watershed Explorers Summer 2018 Program and will help continue each district’s watershed project.

Stormwater Stewards Teachers will expand their stormwater project investigation in their school by recruiting up to two new teachers from their district to be mentored by them. This will begin a cycle of participation with a new cohort of students and at least two new Stormwater Steward teacher trainees.

Up to four new teachers will be trained and up to 250 new students will participate in the program this year as these new teachers are inducted into the program.

As Stormwater Stewards, the teachers will have had one year of experience with their students uploading rainfall and snowfall meltwater data to the CoCoRaHS network and working with the National Weather Service so they will play a bigger role in preparing their students for the project presentation at the 2018 Stormwater Stewards Conference which will occur within the school districts.