In November, AWW Program Staff dove into somewhat uncharted AWW territory with the first unofficial Young Water Watchers (YWW) workshop. For some time, AWW has been working to develop a way for younger individuals to take part in water quality monitoring, but because of safety concerns and data validity it has taken some time to get there. With support and collaboration of the Mill Creek Watershed Project, coordinated by Katie Dylewski, a pilot chemistry and bacteria workshop was facilitated at Central High School (CHS) in Phenix City.
Students who participated ranged from ages 14-18 and were chosen because of their interest in environmental issues and science. Many will represent CHS in the Alabama Envirothon (www.alabamaenvirothon.org), which is an annual competition where teams compete for recognition by demonstrating their knowledge of environmental science and natural resource management. CHS teachers Susan Lawhon and Meredith Curtis and school nurse Cindy Howard participated with the students and will work with them to develop a regular monitoring plan for the on-campus stream which is part of the Mill Creek Watershed. The data they collect will be especially important for evaluating local watershed health because Mill Creek is listed as “impaired” or contaminated by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. The Mill Creek Watershed Project plans to make changes in local land use which will improve water quality in the stream. The student data will help to track changes in the watershed.
Students enjoyed hands-on learning about water quality. One was overheard to say, “I wish biology could always be this fun!” We do too! And we hope that this will be the first of many schools to participate in the Young Water Watchers program. Thanks to Legacy we will have funds to print a set of water monitoring manuals geared to a younger crowd. If you are interested in partnering with us to teach young students about water monitoring or if you’d like to sponsor a YWW workshop please contact the AWW Office.