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Nature and Watershed Learning Activities

Perfect for the student studying at home and family or friends looking to learn together, we've created some resources to help anyone become better observers and stewards of their local watershed.

You and the student in your life can also join us for our upcoming "Watershed Wednesday" series, which we will hold every Wednesday from 10am to 11am. A new educational topic will be offered weekly. Register students by clicking here.


Activities for Young Children and Families

Enjoy our videos featuring Solano RCD naturalists as they explore their watershed and practice social distancing.

  • What do you think of when you hear the word watershed?An image of a lagoon (Lagoon Lake) in front of a hillWatersheds are places where water moves and collects.

    Do you picture a shed or building with water in it? Do you think about water shedding off an umbrella or a rain jacket? A watershed is an area where all of the water on the ground drains or flows into a single point.

    Watersheds can be really big, like the Pacific Ocean, or they can be really small, like the storm drain on your street. If you think about it that way, everyone lives in a watershed no matter where they are. 

    In Solano County, our surface or stormwater eventually flows into the Sacramento River, Suisun Marsh, Carquinez Strait, or San Pablo Bay before going out to the San Francisco Bay and then the Pacific Ocean.

    Click here to see the Solano County Watershed Map and find out what watershed you live in.

    + Videos

     

    Explore different kinds of watersheds and watershed models with us. 

    Explore a Homemade Watershed with Laura

    Explore a Homemade Watershed with Laura

    Join Laura in her kitchen as she models a watershed using aluminum foil and other things she found around her home.

    Explore a Watershed Model with Wendy

    Explore a Watershed Model with Wendy

    Wendy shows how water flows with a model, right next to a creek in her watershed.

    Explore the Path of Water with Allison

    Explore the Path of Water with Allison

    Allison explores things in her backyard that remind her of watersheds.

    Explore a Homemade Watershed with Colin

    Explore a Homemade Watershed with Colin

    Have fun with Colin making water flow through a watershed he built in his backyard. Can you make one, too?

     

    These videos were created by staff using personal devices at their homes during the COVID-19 shelter-at-home order. Remember to follow your local shelter-at-home guidelines.
      

    + Activities

     
    • + Activity #1

      What is a Watershed Explorer?

      Student using a clipboard to take notes.Student using a clipboard to take notes.In this activity, draw what you think a Watershed Explorer does. Remember - YOU are a Watershed Explorer! 

      Download
      ENGLISH | SPANISH

      Includes instructions for caregiver.

    • + Activity #2

      How Do Watersheds Work?

      A diagram of a watershed.A diagram of a watershed. Courtesy of redmond.gov
      In this activity, create a watershed model to test how watersheds work. 

      Download
      ENGLISH | SPANISH

      Includes instructions for caregiver.

    • + Activity #3

      What's In Your Watershed?

      Student looking through binoculars next to a pond.Student looking through binoculars next to a pond.
      Are you in a watershed? What happens in a watershed? Investigate watershed phenomena! 

      Download
      ENGLISH | SPANISH

      Includes instructions for caregiver.

     

    + More Resources

     
    • Build a Watershed

      Build a Watershed

      These simple steps show you how to model a watershed with supplies you can find in your kitchen!

      Time: 15-30 minutes
      Source: PBS Kids 

      See the Activity

      Photo Credit: PBS Kids

    • Explore Watersheds

      Explore Watersheds

      Use this interactive online tool to explore watersheds! 

      Time: 15-30 minutes
      Source: Discover Water 

      See the Activity

      Photo Credit: Project WET

    • Mission: Water!

      Mission: Water!

      Where do animals in a city or town find fresh drinking water after days of no rain? Pretend to be thirsty squirrels, searching a dry neighborhood for water.

      Time: 30-60 minutes
      Source: PBS Kids

      See the Activity

      Photo Credit: PBS Kids

       

     

     

  • A student maps the flow of water from street to ocean.A student maps the flow of water from street to ocean.storm drain with labelHave you seen a storm drain like this near home?When it rains, where is the first place that storm or rainwater goes after it hits the street? Why doesn't the street flood or fill up with water after it rains?

    Going through your neighborhood, you might have noticed openings on the side of the street next to the sidewalk. Perhaps you wondered, "What is that? What goes in there? Is it a sewer?" That opening is called a storm drain, and that is where stormwater goes after it hits the street.

    Now it's your turn to become a storm drain expert. Watch the videos below to learn about what a storm drain is, how it works, and why it is so important that only rain goes down the storm drain.  
     

    + Videos

     

    Learn about storm drains with us! The next time you go for a walk in your neighborhood, see how many storm drains you can find. Where does your stormwater go?

    Follow the Water with Lynette

    Follow the Water with Lynette

    Where is all of that rain water going? Follow it to the storm drain with Lynette.

    Follow the Water with Lidia

    Follow the Water with Lidia

    What can end up in our storm drains if we aren't careful? Find out with Lidia.

     

    These videos were created by staff using personal devices at their homes during the COVID-19 shelter-at-home order. Remember to follow your local shelter-at-home guidelines.
      

    + More Resources

     
    • H2O on the Go

      H2O on the Go

      Where does water flow—and not flow—in a city? Kids model surfaces that absorb water and those that don't, and investigate structures that control water flow in cities and towns.

      Time: 15-30 minutes
      Source: PBS Kids 

      See the Activity

      Photo Credit: PBS Kids

    • Stormwater Walk

      Stormwater Walk

      Become a stormwater detective! Take a walk around your school or home. While walking, observe and record things that can affect the amount of stormwater runoff; such as hard surfaces, planted areas, downspouts and more. Collect data and find out if your house passes the stormwater test!

      Time: 30-60 minutes
      Source: University of Nebraska - Lincoln Extension

      See the Activity

      Photo Credit: Solano Resource Conservation District

    • Stormwater Activity Book

      Stormwater Activity Book

      Learn more about stormwater by doing the activities in this stormwater activity guide!

      Time: 5+ minutes
      Source: University of Utah Water Quality Extension

      See the Activity

      Photo Credit: Solano Resource Conservation District

     

     

  • My PostWe use water every day to help keep clean.
    Courtesy of UnSplash
    How have you used water today? Did you wash your hands? Flush the toilet? Did you drink some?

    You use water every day. Water is a big part of our lives - so much that we can't live very long without drinking it. Have you ever wondered where the water used in your home came from, or how it even got there? 

    Explore the journey of water from its source (where drinking water comes from) to your sink in our videos.

     

      

     

    + Videos

     

    Where does your tap water come from, and how does it get to your home? Follow the water with us from the "source" (where it comes from) to your sink.

    Vallejo, Benicia, Fairfield, or Suisun City Water

    Vallejo, Benicia, Fairfield, or Suisun City Water

    Where does your drinking water come from? Well, it depends on where in Solano County you live. If you live in Vallejo, Benicia, Fairfield, or Suisun City, stick around and find your water source with Laura.
    Dixon, Vacaville, and Rio Vista Water

    Dixon, Vacaville, and Rio Vista Water

    Do you live in Dixon, Vacaville, or Rio Vista? Find out where your tap water comes from with Lidia.

    These videos were created by staff using personal devices at their homes during the COVID-19 shelter-at-home order. Remember to follow your local shelter-at-home guidelines.
      

    + Activities

     

    • Activity #1

      How Are You Connected To Water?

      A cartoon map of Solano County's water resources.A cartoon map of Solano County's water resources.In this activity, pretend to be a drop of water that flows from its source (where it comes from) to where it goes. 

      Download
      ENGLISH | SPANISH

      Includes instructions for caregiver.

    • Activity #2

      How Much Water Do You Use?

      A cartoon map of Solano County's water resources.How much water do you use while brushing your teeth?How much water do you think you use each day? With help from a family member, use this form to keep track how much water you use in one day.

      Do you use more than you think? 

      Download
      ENGLISH | SPANISH

      Includes instructions for caregiver.

    + More Resources

     
    • Thirstin's Wacky Water Adventure

      Thirstin, Cal EPA's water education mascotMeet Thirstin, the USEPA's Water Mascot!
      Learn more about drinking water and where it comes from by going on Thirstin's Wacky Water Adventure!

      Time: 5+ minutes
      Source: USEPA 

      See the Activity

      Photo Credit: US Environmental Protection Agency

    • Earth Water Filter

      Using materials in and around your home, make a filter that turns muddy water clear - just like the water treatment plant does!

      Time: 15-30 minutes
      Source: Discover Water 

      See the Activity
     

     

  • DSC05208 2Flowers start to open on the flower spike of a California buckeye.Flowers blooming. Bees buzzing. Sun blazing. Leaves falling. Rain pouring.

    These are some signs that the seasons are changing between spring, summer, fall, and winter. But have you ever stopped to observe, or notice, all of the small changes around you?

    You don't need to go far to observe nature changing. You can know it's happening just by observing a plant or animal out the window, or getting up close with a plant that is near your home. When you take your observations and write them down, you are being a scientist.

    Scientists that study how plants and animals change between the seasons are called phenologists (fee-nol-uh-gist). Anyone can be a phenologist! 

    Watch our videos and use our tools to learn how you can be this special kind of nature scientist.

    + Videos

     

    Learn to think like a scientist and explore the signs of the season with us.

    Think Like a Scientist with Lynette

    Think Like a Scientist with Lynette

    Learn to think like a scientist with Lynette. You will practice making observations (I notice...), asking questions (I wonder...), and making connections (It reminds me of...) just like real scientists do.

    Seek Out Spring with Allison

    Seek Out Spring with Allison

    Nature is all around us no matter where we are, and it doesn't follow the same calendar people do - it has its own! Investigate the signs of spring with Allison while thinking like a scientist.
    Learn About Phenology with Lidia

    Learn About Phenology with Lidia

    When we draw or write about what we notice, we are being scientists. Learn how to be a scientist called a phenologist (fee-nol-uh-jist) with Lidia.

    Practice Nature Journaling with Laura

    Practice Nature Journaling with Laura

    Learn how to record what you notice and your questions in a notebook just like real scientists. This time we'll "zoom in and zoom out" to explore a plant.

    These videos were created by staff using personal devices at their homes during the COVID-19 shelter-at-home order. Remember to follow your local shelter-at-home guidelines.

     

     

    + Activities

    • Activity #1

      What is Phenology?

      PondC WE5A third grader observes an oak tree.In this activity, you will use "I Notice, I Wonder, It Reminds Me Of" to understand phenology (fee-nol-uh-gee).

      Can you figure out what phenology means?

      Download
      ENGLISH | SPANISH

      Includes instructions for caregiver.

    • Activity #2

      Fun with Phenology!

      DSC05950Children writing about how the seasons change.
      From Nature Bingo to tracking changes, have fun figuring out what "phenology" means!  

      Download
      ENGLISH | SPANISH - coming soon

      Includes instructions for caregiver.

    • Activity #3

      Nature's Calendar

      Students doing a nature scavenger hunt.Students on a nature scavenger hunt.In this scavenger hunt, find out what season nature says we are in! Is it winter, spring, summer, or fall?

      Download
      ENGLISH | SPANISH - coming soon

      Includes instructions for caregiver.

    + More Resources

     Resources will be posted the first week of May. Thank you for your patience.

     

  • A picture of trash in a creek. The trash includes styrofoam, plastic bottles, cans, and other plastic products.By recycling and throwing trash away the right way, you can help make sure our waterways don't fill up with litter.

    We invite YOU to be a Watershed Protector!

    Check out our videos to learn about how we can protect our watersheds in the following ways:

    Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (RRR)

    Did you know that after the garbage truck picks up our trash, it is brought to a landfill and buried? Check out Solano RCD’s video on ways that we can use the 3 R’s. The landfill should be the very last option – only items we can’t recycle or reuse.

    California Redemption Value (CRV)

    Every time you buy a drink in a BOTTLE or CAN, you are paying a little bit extra for the container and YOU CAN get that money back. Check out Solano RCD’s video on how CRV works, and what you can and can’t bring to a CRV center. You’ll also learn some tips on what’s recyclable and what is not.

    Used Motor Oil

    Most cars and busses rely on motor oil to help them run smoothly. When that oil gets dirty, we have to take it out of the engine and put clean oil back in. What are you supposed to do with that dirty motor oil? Check out Solano RCD’s videos on the do’s and don’ts of motor oil disposal.

    Water Conservation

    Check out our water conservation video (coming soon) to learn tips and tricks on how to save water throughout your home, and why that’s important to do in our state. Remember, we never know when the next drought will come.

    Get a superhero cape ready, because you will be Watershed Super Protector after watching these videos. Please send us ideas of how YOU plan to protect your watershed at  

    + Videos

     

    Find out how you can be a Watershed Protector.

    RRR with Lidia

    RRR with Lidia

    RRR! No, we're not being pirates - we're talking about the "Three R's" - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Learn about the Three R's and composting with Lidia.

    Exchange Cans for Cash with Allison

    Exchange Cans for Cash with Allison

    Every time you purchase a can or bottled drink at the store, you have to pay an extra 5 or 10 cents. But you can also get that money back by taking your cans and bottles to a Certified Recycling Center. Learn about the CRV (California Redemption Value) Program with Allison.

    Recycle used oil with Lynette

    Recycle used oil with Lynette

    What are you supposed to do with used car oil? Find out with Lynette - and then ask your family what they do with their used oil.

    Make a Watershed Garden with Lidia

    Make a Watershed Garden with Lidia

    What do watersheds and gardens have in common? Find out with Lidia in this rain garden adventure in stopping water waste.

    Save Water with Laura

    Save Water with Laura

    Learn tips and tricks on how to save water throughout your home, and why that’s important to do here in Solano County and throughout California. Remember, we never know when the next drought will come.

     

    These videos were created by staff using personal devices at their homes during the COVID-19 shelter-at-home order. Remember to follow your local shelter-at-home guidelines.

     

    + Activities

    • + Activity #1

      Petrolia and the Case of Used Oil Recycling

      Student using a clipboard to take notes.Meet Petrolia, Solano County's Used Oil Avenger!Help Petrolia help someone else make a good decision with their used oil!

      Download
      ENGLISH  | SPANISH - coming soon

      Includes a list of Solano County used oil recycling centers and instructions.

    • + Activity #2

      Petrolia and the Case of the CRV Refund

      Student using a clipboard to take notes.Meet Petrolia as she goes to recycle her CRV cans and bottles!Color in this comic featuring Petrolia - the Used Oil Avenger, as they teach kids just like you about California Redemption Value, or CRV.

      We want to see your recyclables!

      Families are encouraged to collect their CRV cans and bottles, take a photo with their collection, and post it on Facebook or Instagram with #WERECYCLE! 

      Download
      ENGLISH 

      Includes list of Solano County CRV recycling centers.

    • + Activity #3

      How Will You Protect Your Watershed?

      Ducks swimming in a pond.Ducks are just some of the animals you can help protect from pollution.
      Congratulations! You are now a Watershed Protector. You have learned what things can hurt our watershed and how to help keep it clean and healthy.

      What will you do to protect your watershed?

      Download
      ENGLISH | SPANISH

      Includes list of Solano County CRV recycling centers.

    + More Resources

    Resources will be posted the first week of May. Thank you for your patience.

     

Nature Activities to Help Get Your Family Through the Coronavirus Pandemic

by Richard Louv | Mar 16, 2020 | The New Nature Movement - Columns by Richard Louveducation 03

If the coronavirus spreads at the rate that experts believe it will, schools, workplaces and businesses will continue to close. Here’s a thread of silver lining: we’ll have more time for each other and nature. And, at least so far, nature’s always open. Getting outside — but at a safe distance from other people — can be one way to boost your family’s resilience. 

Here’s a sampling of activities (borrowed from Vitamin N, Our Wild Calling, Last Child in the Woods and other sources) to help your family make the best of a tough situation. These activities all depend on availability of outdoor spaces, and thinking this through for all of us reminds us of the inequity of park and outdoor space distribution in the United States. Something to take action on after the pandemic lifts.

  1. Pick a “sit spot.”

    Jon Young, one of the world’s preeminent nature educators, and coauthor of Coyote’s Guide, advises children and adults to find a special place in nature, whether it’s under a tree at the end of the yard, a hidden bend of a creek, or a rooftop garden. “Know it by day; know it by night; know it in the rain and in the snow, in the depth of winter and in the heat of summer,” he writes. “Know the birds that live there, know the trees they live in. Get to know these things as if they were your relatives.”

    Doing so can reduce our sense of isolation and our species loneliness. In addition, building a fort, den, or tree house can help children with problem-solving, creativity, planning and a sense of security and place.


  2. Can’t go outside today? Set up a world-watching window.

    Bring the outside in. Many of us don’t have the option of hiking or spending time in the backyard. “Find a window view or other view designed to induce feelings of deep relaxation, awe, and vitality—it will take you away from your inward-facing world,” suggests Dr. De Pluma.

    Air and light pollution prevent two-thirds of the U.S. population and more than half of Europe’s population from seeing the Milky Way with the naked eye. But if your family is lucky enough to live where the stars are visible, stargaze in the evening or very early morning. With your kids, locate a few key constellations and orient to those.

    Other world-watch window activities can include cloudspotting, bird-watching, and more. Keep handy a nature notebook, field guides for birds and stars, binoculars, a telescope, a digital camera with a telephoto lens, and maybe even a sound recorder to capture the sounds of the natural world.

    Other ways to bring the outside in: indoor plants, as many as possible, will help - especially native species. No plants? Send for seeds, especially for native plants if you can find them, and make an indoor garden in your apartment or house. Also, keep learning about nature. A friend who lives with her family in an apartment has created a botany class for her kids.

  3. Take a hike or do other exercises outdoors.

    Where you walk or hike will depend on the degree of social distancing your particular situation requires. With safety issues in mind, both safety from the virus and from people, pick a time a time for your outdoor walk or hike when fewer people are in the park (if the park is still open) or on the street.

    Games can help. For example, “Walk this Way.” On their first hike, younger children may enjoy playing a game called “walk this way”—imitating different animals along the way. Bring toys and props that will make it more fun, like hats and fake swords. Walkie-talkies are also a big hit. Encourage kids to take turns as “hike leader,” walking in front and setting the pace. To help kids pay attention during longer hikes, play find ten critters—which means discovering footprints or other signs of an animal passing through.

  4. Go backyard, rooftop or deck camping.

    Buy or borrow a tent or encourage your kids to create their own tepee from a blanket, poles, or sticks. Leave it up all summer. Make s’mores, play flashlight tag, and make shadow puppets on the tent wall. Encourage them to run into the house for provisions from the refrigerator, and back out again. To turn the tent into a homemade observation blind, cut a small window in the side that faces a nearby bird feeder, bat house, or a place frequented by wildlife. Stow binoculars, field guides, a digital camera with a telephoto lens, water, and granola bars. Join the National Wildlife Federation’s annual Great American Backyard Campout. No yard? Before air-conditioning, pitching a hammock, dragging a mattress, or spreading a sleeping bag on a flat roof or fire escape was common. 

  5. Got dirt? Set aside a piece of ground in the backyard for kids to dig in.

    Research suggests that children strengthen their immune systems by playing in the dirt—and weaken those systems by avoiding dirt. In South Carolina, Norman McGee bought a pickup-truck-load of dirt and delivered it to his yard for his kids to dig in. He reports that the dirt pile cost less than a video game and lasted far longer.

    Find nature everywhere — and create more of it. National Geographic offers an online guide, Finding Urban Nature, that can help city dwellers.

    If you have a yard, check out the National Wildlife Federation’s guide to building a backyard wildlife habitat: “You can invite wildlife back to your own yard and neighborhood by planting a simple garden that provides habitat. Imagine your garden teeming with singing songbirds, colorful butterflies, flitting hummingbirds, and other small wildlife.” Plant a pollinator garden to help restore biodiversity where you live.

    Make a mini-pond. Using little more than a tub, sand, a few rocks, and some water, Wildlife Watch UK shows how to make a small oasis for aquatic and amphibious backyard creatures.

  6. Plant a family or friendship tree, or adopt one.

    Nurturing nature is a positive action to take wherever you live, whether it's a densely populated urban neighborhood, suburb, or small town. Adopt or plant a tree to help mark important family occasions—a holiday, a birth, death, or marriage. The Arbor Day Foundation has information about tree-planting opportunities.

    Susan J. Tweit, plant biologist and author of Walking Nature Home, offers this suggestion: “Get to know a tree or shrub in your neighborhood intimately by observing it over the course of a growing season. Every week, check your adopted tree or shrub and note any changes.” The Take a Child Outside Week campaign suggests taking pictures of your live family tree in its first snow or after a big windstorm. Make bark rubbings using crayons and paper. Make a digital adoption notebook with photos, videos, and observations. Plant its seeds.

    To get started, visit Project Budburst or Nature’s Notebook, and set up an account for your adopted tree or shrub. Acts of caring for others and nurturing nature build psychological and spiritual resilience at a time when children and adults most need it.

  7. Be an electronic wildlife watcher.

    Thanks to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Conservation Training Center, you can watch, in real time, a bald eagle nest. The web offers many opportunities to view live nature cams. It’s one of many online sites for virtual wildlife viewing.

    The Cornell Lab of Ornithology invites the public to join the Celebrate Urban Birds project, which provides links to birdcams and kits in Spanish and English. Participants in the project are encouraged to garden, create nature-related art, and observe neighborhood birds, then send the data online to scientists at the Cornell Lab. The project focuses on species of birds often found in urban neighborhoods.

    Also from Cornell Lab, BirdSleuth.org provides resources for kids K–12, and Feeder Watch helps them protect species by contributing a seasonal tally. At Birdpost.com, young people can post their bird sightings onto satellite maps and track bird populations in their own neighborhoods. Participate in Audubon’s Great Backyard Bird Count.

  8. Give a book that will inspire an outdoor adventure.

    Most of us can recall our favorite childhood books: picture books, books for early and middle readers, and for young adults. As gift books, the ones that parents and other family members loved when they were children will have special meaning for kids. The books most likely to inspire children to head outdoors aren’t environmental sermons (plenty of time for those later), but about adventure and wonder.

    Such inspirational titles include Island of the Blue Dolphins, Julie of the Wolves, Tom Sawyer, The Jungle Book, and The Curious Garden. And don’t forget adult family members and friends; inspire them with Robert Michael Pyle’s The Thunder Tree, Jon Young’s What the Robin Knows, Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire, and Rachel Carson’s The Sense of Wonder. You can read these books together as a family.

    Encourage your kids to start their own nature journals. Can’t get outside? Suggest that they write and draw the birds they see in the window, and the nature adventures they’d like to have this summer or next fall.

  9. Tell your own nature stories.

    When I was researching and writing Our Wild Calling, many people shared their stories with me of transformational encounters and deep relationships with other animals. Sometimes with a pet, other times with a wild animal – a coyote walking through the yard, the mother raccoon and her children, the wounded bird nursed back to health. To the storytellers, these stories held great meaning, and that meaning deepened during the retelling.

    One of my hopes for this book is that it will encourage you and your family to sit down around the kitchen table or campfire and tell each other stories about animals who have touched your heart. These stories can also be shared on YouTube; through writing, art, and photography; and even through music.

  10. Added thoughts.

    Boredom is underrated. And sometimes, so is hope. When school shuts down because of bad weather or a virus, boredom can lead to creativity. Especially during summer, parents hear the moaning complaint: “I’m borrrred.”

    Long days at home during a Boredom is fear’s dull cousin. Passive, full of excuses, it can keep children from nature—or drive them to it. Many of us recall how carefully planned activities paled in comparison to more spontaneous experiences, and that boredom often pushed us to create our own stories, which we tell to this day. Sharing those stories is even more important during difficult times.

    Also, now more than ever, we need to practice using imaginative hope to think seriously about how to create a healthier, nature-rich, more equitable civilization in the years to come.


A reminder: before heading outside, review the fast-changing CDC, state or local recommendations. Adoption or location of these and other outdoor activities will depend on your family’s particular vulnerability to the virus, and on the vulnerability of people around you. Stay healthy.

Contact Us

Solano Resource Conservation District

1170 N Lincoln, Ste. 110
Dixon, CA 95620

Phone: (707) 678-1655 x 101

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