Teachers prepare for the new school year at Solano County’s open spaces
Field trip-based Solano Water Institute provides knowledge and tools for teaching watershed science and conservation
Solano County, CA (August 7, 2023) – Twenty-nine teachers joined Solano Resource Conservation District and area experts for a 3-day professional development training from August 2nd through 4th in Solano County’s open spaces. The Solano Water Institute gave teachers a local perspective on water and conservation issues that they can bring back to their classrooms. Teachers also had time to share ideas and enjoy the outdoors before kicking off a new school year. Each day of the training featured hands-on lessons from Project WET, an award-winning environmental education curriculum created by the Water Education Foundation.
On the first day of the training, teachers learned about the unique ecosystem of the Suisun Marsh during their time at Rush Ranch Open Space outside Suisun City. Adjoa McDonald, a seventh-grade English teacher at Hogan Middle School in Vallejo and founder of the Vallejo Project, said “I wish every teacher had the experience of coming into nature with the experts and learning how we can apply innovative conservation information across all content areas.” Teachers were joined by John Takekawa from the Suisun Resource Conservation District and Dr. John Durand, Senior Research Scientist at the University of California – Davis, for a hike around the Suisun Marsh, and heard from Nicole Byrd Braddock about Solano Land Trust’s work to preserve land throughout the county.
Solano County’s local water resources were the focus of the second day of the training. Teachers took a boat tour of Lake Berryessa and learned about Solano County’s drinking water supply from Alex Rabidoux of the Solano County Water Agency. Marc Bautista, from the City of Benicia, provided details about local water management, and Kathy Schulz, Water Education Specialist at the California Department of Water Resources, added additional perspective on the state’s management of our water resources. Jennifer Onufer, former U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Supervisory Park Ranger, discussed biodiversity at the lake.
On the Solano Institute’s third day, teachers immersed themselves in the Project WET curriculum at Dunnell Nature Park & Education Center in Fairfield. Brian Brown, California Project WET Coordinator, led teachers through activities and facilitated discussions about how teachers can bring the curriculum into their classrooms. Valerie Miner, a seventh-grade science teacher at David Weir Preparatory Academy in Fairfield, shared that the training “provided an incredible way to implement hands-on activities for students of all ages that promote a deeper understanding of how valuable water is and of the resources we have in our community, and how important it is to collaborate and work together.” Teachers also heard from Jennifer Leonard from the Solano County Office of Education about resources available to them and their students. Chris Drake from Solano County Parks provided teachers with information about other open spaces nearby and updated them on resources available at the parks. And finally, Ramiro Jimenez, from the City of Vacaville, shared details about the city’s efforts at managing and conserving water.
Participants will receive a $300 stipend upon completion of the program and can claim 21 hours of continuing education credit. Teachers will come back together in October for a workshop day when they will share how they’ve applied the training’s content in their classrooms.
The Solano Water Institute for Teachers is funded by the Solano County Orderly Growth Committee, with support from the California Department of Water Resources and the School Water Education Program (Solano County Water Agency; Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District; Cities of Vacaville, Fairfield, Suisun City, Vallejo, Dixon, and Benicia). The workshop is hosted by Solano RCD with support from Brian Brown, Project WET Coordinator for California. For more information, please visit https://www.solanorcd.org/projects-and-programs/education/educator-workshops.html or email .
Next year’s training date is tentatively set for July 31 – August 2, 2024.
Contact: Shea Kinser, Education Program Manager