On Friday, October 11th, WREN's Environmental Education Specialist Annie Carter attended the 2019 Oregon Science Teachers Association Conference at Lane Community College. This event brought together teachers from around the state to share lessons and ideas and discuss ways to better integrate innovative teaching standards into the classroom. Annie led a session at the conference about SPLASH!, a stormwater curriculum WREN has been updating for the City of Eugene. She was accompanied by Jeffrey Flowers from the City of Eugene Public Works Department.
When it rains in a natural, undeveloped landscape, water is absorbed into the ground and taken up by plants. Only a small portion of that water travels across the ground, picking up debris before it reaches surface waters like lakes and rivers. This is known as stormwater, runoff, or non-point source pollution. Due to a much higher proportion of impermeable surfaces in urban environments, only a small fraction of water gets absorbed into the ground and the rest becomes runoff. Everything from loose trash to complex chemicals can become a contaminant in the runoff of developed environments, and these pollutants negatively affect water quality for humans and wildlife. Teachers participating in the OSTA session learned how runoff affects recreation safety and habitat quality, ways to limit the negative impacts of runoff, and specific activities in the SPLASH! curriculum. Using materials like coffee filters, crushed oyster shells, and gravel, teachers constructed water filters using the engineering process. Their filters addressed specific water quality parameters like turbidity, dissolved solids, and pH.
WREN is still in the process of revamping SPLASH! curriculum for elementary and middle school classrooms. Lesson and activity plans, worksheets, and activity materials will all be available for teachers on request, free of charge, from the city. From designing and testing filters to analyzing their own school yards, SPLASH! teaches students that in order to protect our local waterways, we must all think of ways to reduce our impact on the landscape and make choices that keep pollutants out of our waters.