Kids for the Bay

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Fifth-Graders Learn to Protect Local Watershed

Two fifth-grade girls pick up trash in a tote bag.Picking up someone else’s litter has never been more exciting.

Fifth-graders at Amador Elementary School in Dublin are connecting with their local watershed through a program presented by KIDS for the BAY, an organization providing environmental education to elementary schools in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

The goal for the Alamo Creek Watershed Action Program is to educate youth about their local watershed and inspire them to take an active role in keeping it clean. Fifth grade teacher Sarah Jawed said the program ties into the regular curriculum, and students have performed better on science quizzes since the program started.

“In elementary school, the students don’t really get a lot of hands-on experience,” Jawed said. “It’s helping them retain the information.”

Watershed program funded through reparations for water main break

The KIDS for the BAY program at Amador Elementary School in Dublin was made possible as part of a settlement to a California Regional Water Quality Control Board, San Francisco Bay Region, enforcement action against the Dublin San Ramon Services District.

Here’s what happened.  On Sept. 6, 2017, a water main broke (14-inch diameter, 20-foot long pipe split) on Tuscany Drive in Dublin and 61,000 gallons of drinking water spilled into Alamo Creek, killing a little more than 100 fish. This violated the Clean Water Act (there’s chlorine in drinking water that can be harmful to the fish), and the District had to pay a $72,500 fine to the Regional Water Board. Even though the pipe was less than 20 years old and should have lasted at least 75 years, it was a violation. And although the broken pipe was repaired and water service reinstated to the 25 affected homes within 27 hours, it was a violation. That’s the bad news.

The good news is the Regional Water Board spent half the penalty fine ($36,250) to fund the KIDS for the BAY Alamo Creek Watershed Action Program at Amador Elementary.

In a series of classroom programs, 116 students have done “Estuary in a Bag” experiments, built a clay model demonstrating the mixing of freshwater and saltwater, investigated the anatomy of Dungeness crab and striped bass, and picked up litter from around school grounds so rain doesn’t wash it into our waterways.

Fifth-graders raise their hands in a classroom.“They’re learning classroom subjects on a local level,” said Marianne Keith, program manager for KIDS for the BAY. “They’ve been super excited to learn this science.”

On a drizzly late November afternoon, kids partnered up and took turns picking up litter from a playground area and keeping a tally of what and how much was collected. While the school grounds were generally clear of trash, students were surprised by how many small bits of lunch wrappers and similar items could be found on the ground.

“It’s nice to think we’re helping the community,” fifth-grader Chloe Green said.

Student partners Sonia Gautam and Misha Nagrani said they like being able to improve the ecosystem for the animals that live in local creeks. “It makes me feel important,” Sonia said.

Empowering children to learn about their local watershed and how they can make a difference, the KIDS for the BAY program will also incorporate an assembly where fifth-graders present what they have learned to younger students. Participants in the Alamo Creek Watershed Action Program will also take a spring field trip to Sunol Regional Wilderness to investigate animals at Alameda Creek, which is part of the same watershed and leads to the San Francisco Bay.