Students help community through watershed class

Watershed Pics2

By Joel Gregory | Assistant News Editor

While some students are enjoying an extra day off on Friday, others are involved in the Watershed program, learning new skills and helping give back to their community.

With the implementation of the four-day school week, the OSU Extension Service and the Coos Watershed Association have created a course called the Master Watershed Stewardship Association, which takes place on Fridays.

Jon Souder, Executive Director of the Coos Watershed Association, figured students would have a lot of free time on Fridays.

“We realized that there would be 1,200 eighth to twelfth grade students on the street on Friday,” Souder said.

The course is offered to all eighth to twelfth graders and counts for one-half of a science elective credit, the equivalent of one semester of science. The course aims at helping students learn different jobs and skills related to watersheds, which are areas of land that drain water to one central body. Students assist in planting trees and testing water quality to try to restore the Coos Watershed.

Maddie Deplois, a senior involved in the program, thinks the Watershed Program is a great way to take advantage of the extra day off.

“I thought it was really smart to offer that opportunity,” Deplois said.

Most of the work done by students this fall took place up Catching Slough at Matson’s Creek. Much of the work was aimed at making the rivers more habitable for the salmon.

For many students, being outside instead of in a classroom all day is one of the major benefits of the class. Freshman Fletcher Payne appreciates the unique opportunity.

“I like going out and doing things, instead of being in a class all day,” Payne said.

Students in the course are split into four teams divided by age. Each team studies water quality, hydrology, soils landforms, vegetation and streams. Rachel Mickey, an instructor who works for the Coos Watershed Association, said data collected by students will be used for future management plans. Students who took the course first semester presented what they learned on Jan. 11, at SWOCC in front of a small crowd which included their instructors and parents.

MHS science teacher Scott Stockert helps organize the program. He appreciates the fact that students present what they have learned.

“I like that they collect real data, present it in front of the public and explain the work they’ve done,” Stockert said.

Bessie Joyce, another instructor who works for the Coos Watershed Association, enjoyed watching the students grow.

“I am really proud of the students. I enjoyed watching them learn over the course of the semester,” Joyce said.

The program can also be a great help to students who are looking to find out what career or field of science they are interested in.

“This class really gives you an idea of what kind of jobs there are,” Deplois said.

This course can be a launchpad to college classes or a career in science.  For tenth to twelfth grade students, college credit is offered if they do an extra independent research project. Deplois intends to make science her career.

“I am planning on having my [college] major be environmental science,” Deplois said.

The goal of this program is to involve students in a summer work program, called the Oregon Youth Conservation Corps.

“We want to engage students through this program and mentor them through to get a job,” Souder said.

Next semester the class will be offered again, but will be aimed more toward leadership training. Most of the work done will be located at Pony Creek. Souder thinks the class will be a rewarding opportunity for students.

‘’The Conservation Leadership class will build students’ ability to be effective; to work with others and in groups to get things done. It will have both field experiences at Pony Creek in watershed restoration, paired with classroom activities that build communication and leadership skills,” Souder said. “Above all, the class will be fun and rewarding for the students.”