Extra! Extra! Read All About It! Lodi Takes a Novel Approach Connecting People of the Watershed
Lodi’s novel approach for public outreach and public participation culminates in an 8-page newspaper focused on the Mokelumne River watershed, written by Lodi students, and distributed to 23,000 students and residents.
But, how do you engage your community’s teachers and students to care enough to write a newspaper devoted entirely to its watershed? How do you find grant support to pay for the project? The key is to partner with teachers and the local school district, by offering multiple educational opportunities throughout the school year. Over the past 18 years, Lodi has developed a series of programs available for local teachers, all aimed to involve students in the stewardship of their watershed. The Mokelumne Current newspaper project is the culmination and measure of the city’s outreach program, while also the most effective, and cost effective, for reaching the public.
This year’s 2018 Mokelumne Current edition reflects multiple study trips throughout the schoolyear to points of interest within the watershed that teachers have chosen, known for their relevancy and educational value. From summit to sea, sites students visited included the San Francisco Bay aboard a research vessel, to their local water treatment facility, to the waste management transfer station, with all study trips aimed at helping students better understand the watershed they live in. Students’ journal after each trip, taking notes, developing concept maps and drawings to help them remember lessons learned. Eventually, the newspaper highlights diverse topics such as California’s water plans for the Delta, highlighted in a 6th grader ‘s Q/A column with Carol Berkeley, California State Water Resource Board administrative assistant to the chair; as well as several articles about the problem garbage poses in the environment. Second grade students reflect on raising salmon in the classroom, then releasing them to the river; while high school senior Storm Drain Detective students, who helped monitor the Mokelumne River for three years, went on to help their high school campus solve drainage flooding issues, creating several BMP’s to improve drainage and water quality, and more. In the end, students become educated to become more involved in local efforts, as well as learn about career paths in the water, stormwater world.
Key to helping teachers understand the myriad of environmental issues facing Californian’s today, is the free California Education in the Environment (EEI) curriculum, available to teachers who attend the free workshop the City offers. A small stipend is given to teachers who successfully complete and present their accomplishments at an end of year workshop.
Next step is helping get teachers out of the classroom on study trips or monitoring the river. The City of Lodi has a watershed program coordinator position devoted fulltime to help develop these opportunities, as well as to help teachers write grants to fund study trips. Since 2000, the City of Lodi has overseen the Storm Drain Detectives, a student monitoring effort where twice monthly students collect water from the Mokelumne River, measuring dissolved oxygen, pH, electrical conductivity, turbidity, and nitrates, hoping to answer the question, “How does the City’s stormwater runoff affect the Mokelumne River?” Data is posted on the City’s website. A yearend presentation to the community helps engage the public. Students also learn where their drinking water comes from, since the City treats its own drinking water from groundwater and surface water, taken from the Mokelumne River.
Lodi’s approach to its outreach program is successful because of the many community group collaborations taking place regularly. Monthly meetings of stakeholder groups allow for good communication and cross pollination of ideas. From summit to sea, local involvement is key to California’s water resources being managed in a sustainable manner, as the students will tell yo