Urban Watersheds environmental project to climax at Texas State

Date of Release: 10/04/2006

SAN MARCOS —The Learning Urban Watersheds project is a multifaceted effort that will conclude with an Earth Day event at the Aquarena Center on the Texas State University-San Marcos campus Saturday, April 22.

The project is funded by a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency with additional participation and support from the Texas State geography department’s Texas Watch program, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Lower Colorado River Authority and three city programs.

The program combines classroom and outdoor learning activities developed by TP&W’s Project WILD and Texas Amphibian Watch, and is focused on addressing watershed concerns in urban areas to inform students who have limited availability in the field of environmental strain and resources that affect water quality.

“The project is to cultivate a sense of water quality issues in a setting where people don’t usually have a sense of their environment,” said Julie Tuason, an environmental education specialist with Texas Watch.

In July, 13 high school science teachers in the Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth areas were selected and trained to implement the project in their classrooms during the 2006-2007 school year. Approximately 500 middle and high school students in the Dallas area and 450 in the Houston area are currently participating.

A noteworthy feature of the program, one that particularly caught the interest of the EPA in funding the effort, is the emphasis on different levels of environmental literacy. The most active form the project embraces is through environmental stewardship. The program promotes stewardship by highlighting specific day to day activities we all engage in that contain overlooked environmental consequences.

Stewards are encouraged to educate themselves and others about consumer practices, activities concerning land development and how individual behavior can influence the environment. This involves a set of guiding principles in the decision making process when making choices in car and lawn care, the purchase of products, recycling, waste reduction, conservation, preservation and reuse applications.

An educated steward would know to water the yard in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the hottest part of the day when evaporation is highest. Committed individuals can carpool, walk, ride a bike or utilize public transportation to reduce pollution.

Other participation in the project involves different approaches to teaching and various field activities in the Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston and San Marcos areas. Lesson plans associated with Texas Watch, Nature Trackers and Project WILD curricula guide the classroom discussion. Instruction is supported and supplemented by project staff and speakers are recruited to visit.

The Earth Day event will bring 13 teachers and 26 hand-picked students to Texas State that will allow high school students from Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth to share content and concepts to younger pupils from surrounding middle schools in the San Marcos and Austin areas. Canoes will be used to collect water samples at Aquarena Center and young scholars will practice proper techniques for performing measurements.

Teachers and students will maintain a record of the event to enhance the information used to evaluate changes in behavior and attitudes toward environmental literacy. Groundwork for future service learning projects may also be discussed.

About Texas Watch
Established in 1991, Texas Watch is administered through a cooperative partnership between Texas State University, the TCEQ and the EPA. Volunteers are trained to collect quality-assured information that can be used to make environmentally sound decisions. Currently, more than 400 Texas Watch volunteers collect water quality data on lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands, bays, bayous and estuaries in Texas. In collaboration with project partners, Texas Watch will produce a final report that will include a summary of project activity and an evaluation of success on the Learning Urban Watersheds initiatives.

The information collected with a Texas Watch kit is intended to be used for educational purposes, local decision-making, research, screening and problem identification, and other uses deemed appropriate by resource managers and the TCEQ.