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In the field on Home Street, where Bishop Creek runs through town, some of Mr. Hollandâ€™s sixth-grade science class from Home Street Elementary school could be seen holding cut up milk cartons, nets, tape measures, charts and other tools recently.
For the past 12 years Co-Coordinators of the Eastern Sierra Watershed Project Katie Quinlin and Leigh Parmentor, along with volunteer docents, have been helping to educate many elementary school children with the watershed project, giving students a chance to see their home in the Owens Valley as a living laboratory.
In order to share their passion for the Eastern Sierra and education, the ESICE, collaborated in 1997 with the Bureau of Land Managementâ€™s Hands on the Land program to begin the process of expanding the Watershed Project.
As part of the Eastern Sierra Institute for Collaborative Education and the Eastern Sierra Watershed Project partnership, elementary school students can learn actual scientific investigative methods that help educate them in science, the environment and culture.
Each grade level has specific places and projects in the program.
While second and fourth-grade students get to explore a wetland in the Owens Valley called Fish Slough, the eighth graders monitor the changes along the lower Owens River due to the re-watering. The students began collecting â€śbeforeâ€ť data in 2002. Water was reintroduced to the river in 2006. Â
Each year 7th and 8th grade students monitor the changes in plants, wildlife, water quality, aquatic invertebrates, soils and stream channel structure and form.
The third grade program, according to ESWPâ€™s website, is designed in cooperation with the Bishop Paiute Tribe Environmental Office, Eastern Sierra Audubon, U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. The students go to the Bishop Paiute Tribeâ€™s Conservation Open Space and participate in four activities.
When asked how the program has progressed Quinlin said, â€śIâ€™m pretty happy that weâ€™re still going since the 2008 crash, and that we can still go to the places we go to help educate the kids. This is such a great program for the kids to get hands-on field work. Most students have to wait until they get into college to have this type of experience and education. But this way they are getting it in middle school.â€ť
Parmentor said that the project also has a docent program. Â â€śWe organize the volunteers and have from 25 to 30 volunteers each time, because we take six groups out each day. Having volunteers that come and help as we do, can make it better for each project, because the kids can get more one-on-one time, and they all get to participate.â€ť
Through the teachers program in class videoconferencing opportunities are provided to teachers via week-long summer classes and through after-school video conferencing connecting participating teachers throughout Inyo County.