Siuslaw Stream Teams, Grades 3, 4, 5, 7
Jim Grano, coordinator

Siuslaw Middle School’s Salmon and Watersheds Education program (Stream Team) has been in place for thirteen years. This successful project expanded in 2008 by providing similar educational experiences for grades 3-5.

Field trips and classroom watershed-based instruction offer elementary students chances to learn “hands-on” and “in-the-field” about the natural resources of our area and to participate “on-the-ground” in resource research, restoration, and protection efforts. Through their participation, students actively learn about their watershed, which increases their lifelong understanding, appreciation, and stewardship of the Siuslaw basin. The motto of Siuslaw Stream Teams is “We can make a difference”, and through the Stream Team, students are been empowered by their hands-on activities to feel that they have made a difference in their home watershed.

Subjects include What is a Watershed? How It Works, Natural Changes Within, Habitat Loss, Alien Species, Restoration/Enhancement, Sustainable Natural Resources, and Stewardship. Forest, stream, estuary, and salmon are Siuslaw Watershed focal points. Natural resources knowledge and skills are acquired in tree identification and riparian planting, invasive plant identification and removal, fish identification and life cycles, water quality testing, hatchery operations, sustainable economic resources, and recreational uses of the watershed.

Siuslaw Stream Teams is a locally developed program of sequential watershed studies with educational materials, speakers, and 20+ field trips for 330 Siuslaw Elementary 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. Partners are Siuslaw Watershed governmental agencies and volunteers.

Through this program, students learn how the activities of those involved in watershed protection and restoration (including themselves) can change the future. Field trips will provide significant outdoor experiences for many of today's youth who no longer "get outside". Class sets of books on subjects relevant to the experiences of the field trips will increase student motivation to read and comprehend, and value reading.

Students and teachers, grades 3-5 and 7 are the primary audiences. These participants will benefit from early awareness of the wealth of natural resources in their home watershed. They will be motivated by the relevance to their lives of the subject matter. It will be science that is both meaningful and comprehensible. Their families, and through media coverage and other outreach, the residents of the Siuslaw Watershed, will be informed and influenced about maintaining healthy watersheds. The Stream Team’s history has repeatedly demonstrated the positive impacts of this kind of program --- youth are highly motivated by the relevant topics, excited about field trips that incorporate tangible restoration activities, exceptionally well-behaved, and academically productive with follow-up assignments. Families appreciate and learn from their students’ enthusiasm, and many parents/guardians are present on one or more trips. This project is aligned with the State Department of Education’s science standards, with multiple Federal and State government agencies’ mandates to support environmental education efforts, with the “No Child Left Inside” movement’s stated goals and legislative efforts, with STEP’s fundamental goal of youth education/involvement, and with the mission statement of the Siuslaw Watershed Council.

This project has been funded primarily by grants from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board. The program also receives financial support from Florence Rotary, Florence Kiwanis, Ladies of the Elk, PTA, Florence STEP, Western Lane Community Foundation, and local merchants. No school district funds are spent on transportation or equipment. Thousands of hours are contributed by agencies and volunteers.

When our youth become aware, knowledgeable, and experienced early and repeatedly, they respond with enthusiasm, do meaningful work, create long-lasting memories, and develop stewardship. Education is watershed restoration.