Know Your Watershed / ( Conoce tu cuenca ) (available in Spanish)
Tell Me About the Watershed / ¿Qué me cuentas de la cuenca?
Household Hazardous Substances / Substancias y materiales peligrosos en el hogar
School/Community Projects Manual / Cuadernillo de proyectos escolares/comunitarios
Visit to Ecoparque / Visita a Ecoparque
PROBEA’s newest curriculum, Know Your Watershed ( Conoce tu cuenca ) (Available in Spanish), is designed to educate environmental educators, teachers, and their students in La Paz, Baja California Sur to become environmentally literate citizens who will take responsibility for their local environment. Students work in teams to learn about the history and ecology of their watershed. They gain an understanding of what an aquifer is and learn about water scarcity issues in La Paz. Finally, they engage in projects and take action to conserve water in their homes and their schools.
Our Natural Heritage, Pride of Southern Baja California and Our Natural Heritage, Bioregional Pride, engages teachers and their students in the Baja California peninsula and San Diego county to make a personal connection with the extraordinarily beautiful natural areas of their region. Students learn about ecosystem concepts through a mind map that they apply to local deserts, dunes, chaparral, coastal and succulent sage scrubs, beaches, pine/oak woodlands, wetlands, riparian areas, and oasis ecosystems. A field guide illustrated by La Paz fisherman Juan Chuy Lucero (for Baja California Sur) and Jim Melli (for Baja California and San Diego County) provides descriptions and ecological relationships of typical plants and animals in each ecosystem. Working in teams, students learn about the value of natural resources and the challenges we face to take care of them. They complete their studies with a project to directly benefit the local environment.
Great blue herons stand statue-still waiting for an unsuspecting fish to appear. Shore birds probe nearby mudflats like sewing machines, extracting invertebrates that inhabit the myriad holes punctuating the surface. And students with clipboards observe and note this and more as they work in teams to complete their outdoor learning assignment.
Change the scene and repeat this activity in dunes, beaches, desert, and mangroves to help students make a connection to nature. Why is this important? Because we know that making a personal connection to nature is key to motivating us to become good environmental stewards. When we fall in love with our environment, we care for it. Our Natural Heritage seeks to be the matchmaker between thousands of students and their environment.
Our strategy works. Participants who have lived in Loreto, La Paz and San Jose del Cabo all their lives frequently tell us, “You have opened our eyes.” Instead of taking their region’s rich natural resources for granted, they now take responsibility for its stewardship. Having gained awareness, knowledge and skills, they enthusiastically engage in projects to benefit their local environment.
PROBEA provides instruction in how to organize and carry out such activities as trash cleanups, water conservation and planting native plant gardens. Participants do the rest and are transformed in the process. Where there was a feeling of powerlessness and despair, there is now hope. Individuals and small groups working together can make a positive difference in their local environment and quality of life. As Bertha Romano said, “I came to this workshop a poor person. Now I am rich.”
And not only workshop participants are enriched by their experience. In its first three years, the 342 trained educators, who influenced more than 12,000 students, have led their groups to carry out 106 projects, many of which benefit the entire community.
PROBEA adapted the “Heritage ” curriculum written for Baja California Sur to the Baja California and San Diego County region in 2009. Our Natural Heritage, Bioregional Pride/Baja California and San Diego County is available in English and Spanish. We continue to conduct educator workshops with materials that focus on the region’s ecosystems.
The Tijuana River Watershed serves as a model for learning about watershed dynamics, which can be applied to any watershed. Based on a 30-minute video produced in 2005, the curriculum addresses such themes as the water cycle, geographical aspects of the watershed, biodiversity, ecosystem and the effects of human population on the watershed. PROBEA trains educators in how to use resources they receive at the workshop conclusion: the Tijuana River Watershed video, the Tijuana River Watershed Atlas, a bilingual CD-ROM and a resource guide. Grades 4–12.
Did you know that you live in a watershed? We all do. A watershed is the area of land where all of the water drains into a common river and then to a lake or the ocean. In 2003–2004, PROBEA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service collaborated to produce a video about the Tijuana River watershed, which lies across the U.S./Mexico border. The next year we produced a curriculum that shows how to use the video as a teaching tool and includes 20 activities related to the video themes. It also includes using the Tijuana River Watershed Atlas produced by San Diego State University and Colegio de la Frontera Norte. Although the focus is the Tijuana River watershed, information can be transferred to students’ local watershed.
Students learn that all things—living and non-living—in a watershed are linked, and they gain an understanding of the importance of being good stewards of their local watershed. To date 63 teachers have been trained in the curriculum, and 2,482 students have worked in teams to carry out projects to benefit their watershed.
How can we tell which household substances pose a threat to our health and to the environment? How can we safely use and store them? What safe alternatives exist? Through hands-on activities, participants learn the answers to these questions. Workshop participants carry out a project that implements a change in their behavior with regard to their management and use of household toxics. Grades 4–6.
We are bombarded daily with advertisements about the latest cleaning agents for our windows and our floors, the most effective fertilizers and pesticides for our gardens, and the detergents that will produce the brightest whites in our clothes. What we don’t know is that many of these agents are harmful to human health and to the environment. In addition, they are costly.
In this workshop teachers and promotoras learn to recognize hazardous substances and how to manage them with the goal of reducing water and land pollution and improving environmental health. An important component of the program is the home survey. Their groups conduct this survey, and then families commit to making behavior changes in their homes, such as making and using safe alternatives from recipes provided.
Educators also carry out awareness projects. For example, in Tecate, a preschool teacher engaged parents and children in a household hazardous-materials-awareness project. She was interviewed for the local TV station and posted the video on You Tube.
As we develop knowledge and awareness about environmental issues, we begin to see a need to DO something. This workshop presents nine school projects at the simple, intermediate and advanced levels. Teachers and students learn skills that allow them to make a difference in their local community. All levels.
In Tijuana, one teacher and his students reduce their classroom paper usage, while another teams up with a fellow teacher to lead students, parents, and community in cleaning up a neglected area of the school grounds, and then planting and maintaining a native plant garden. In Tecate, students produce a newsletter creating awareness about household hazardous materials and safe alternatives. Further south in La Paz, teachers and students collect trash and begin a school recycling program. And in Loreto, an administrator involves teachers, students, parents, and maintenance personnel at eight schools in a comprehensive campaign to clean up the schools, paint them inside and out (including the furniture), repair all water leaks, create a recycling program, and plant native plant gardens on the grounds.
These images of PROBEA participants engaging in projects to benefit their local environment answer the question, “Are we making a difference?” Since 2006, PROBEA educators have led over 21,200 students, parents, and community members to carry out 245 projects throughout the Baja California Peninsula. To support our participants in taking action to benefit the environment, PROBEA has created a Projects Handbook that outlines easy, medium, and complex projects with instructions for educators in how to lead their groups in planning, organizing and carrying out these projects.
A curriculum consisting of activities to be carried out jointly by promotores (community volunteers) and teachers before, during, and after the visit to this ecological park in Tijuana, begins with information on the Tijuana River watershed. Students then discuss the theme of cycles. They learn about (or review) the water cycle. Following this, they engage in activities about composting and the food web, relating them to the cycles of life and the cycle of materials through the ecosystem. The curriculum stresses a hands-on interactive approach to learning. Grades 3–6.
Imagine visiting a natural area for the first time. A lush, verdant park is home to an abundance of insects, birds, rabbits, squirrels, and chickens(!). Hawks circle overhead, eager to partake of the feast. You have never seen anything like this!
The place is Ecoparque in Tijuana, a model ecological park whose main function is the treatment of neighborhood wastewater, which is then used to irrigate the site. Eight thousand children from the outskirts of Tijuana had the opportunity to visit this very special place from 2003–2007, thanks to funding from an anonymous donor. PROBEA’s challenge was how to make this very special visit personal and meaningful for each child who participated.
We began by creating a curriculum, Visitas a Ecoparque, that contained pre-, during and post-field-trip lessons. We created collaboration with the Ecoparque staff, Los Niños (www.viainternational.org) and Fundación Esperanza de México. Los Niños and Fundación Esperanza de México recruited promotoras, mothers from the same communities served by the project. We trained these dedicated women, most of whom had minimum schooling, in the curriculum content and in how to lead the field-trips. We also trained teachers who presented the pre- and post-field-trip lessons in their classrooms.
As the program progressed, we witnessed the amazing personal growth of the promotoras as they gained confidence in leading their groups. Rotating through four stations, they taught the children about the water cycle, the food chain, paper recycling, and the water-treatment process.
Children learned about the importance of taking care of nature and left with a commitment to conserve water, recycle materials and be kind to animals. The highlight of their visit was making paper from recycled paper and natural objects, such as leaves and flowers, found in the park.