On Your Doorstep Issue 1 - Page 21

and humans that share the land drained by that polluted water will get sick. If the water is diverted or dries out, the ecosystem will be stressed.

We all live in a watershed and we share the land and the water resources of this wonderful region. We are lucky to live near one of the largest estuaries on the planet. An estuary is an area where saltwater from the ocean mixes with freshwater from creeks and rivers, resulting in an extremely productive ecosystem, full of life. Estuaries are ecosystems full with life both above and below the surface. In the Bay Area, we share the water from our watersheds with the marsh plants, oyster reefs and shorebirds that live along the edges of the San Francisco Bay.

At The Watershed Project we educate, train and empower communities to restore the Bay Ecosystem and the natural services of the land-water inter phase. We want people to feel capable and educated to solve the environmental problems faced by our land and neighborhoods by greening the communities and making them resilient, strong, and healthy.

Watersheds are like the circulatory system of our planet and each small watershed is part of a bigger watershed, so we are all connected through water.

Would it be fair to say that your organization’s primary purpose is to enable/support?

We do enable and support others but more importantly, we lead underserved communities to take action. We train and educate by example and believe in hands-on education as the best way to create long- term stewardship.

All of our restoration efforts are educational opportunities and all of our creek and shoreline projects become out outdoor classrooms. We educate over 1,500 K-12 students each year through hands-on restoration and action projects, and we work with schools and administrators to make service learning a real opportunity for transforming and greening neighborhoods, schools, shorelines, parks and creeks. Our educators bring high-quality curriculum to hundreds of classrooms around the Bay and our youth programs provide internships, leadership and research opportunities for the next generation of environmental stewards.

We also mobilize over 3,000 volunteers each year by training and giving them opportunities to green the urban environment and reconnect with nature through long lasting scientifically sound projects. We green our communities by planting street trees; installing rain gardens and bioswales that filter polluted rain water and prevent flooding from streets and parking lots; restoring creek banks with native plants; restoring the natural functions of marshes; removing invasive vegetation from natural shorelines; installing oyster reefs to bring back the biodiversity of our shoreline; promoting habitat gardening; removing trash and litter from the watershed; promoting citizen science; and helping people understand the power of their daily actions in protecting water quality and restoring their watersheds.

We enable and support watershed groups and want people to replicate our efforts to make the water conservation and education movement a strong network of neighbors and youth that work together to clean and green the Bay, starting in our own backyards and neighborhoods.

What were the first activities you did and how did you grow from there?

We started as a training institute for K-12 teachers and a seeding organization for watershed groups. We were more of an enabling and supporting organization back then.

Our “train the trainer” model allowed us to reach students though their teachers and that had a great multiplying effect. However, at some point the teachers started to feel overwhelmed with so much change in their school districts and we started to see the registration numbers decline. Teachers wanted support in the classroom through hands-on science education aligned with the new Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards. They wanted their students to be involved in real world environmental education projects in the community, but needed help getting the field trips sponsored and organized. That led us to grow our education programs to working directly with students in addition to supporting the teachers.

We also had great success seeding watershed groups and helping mobilize others in the community to restore their own watersheds. During our first 10 years, we helped start Friends of Sausal Creek, Friends of Baxter Creek, Friends of San Leandro Creek, Friends of Pinole Creek, SPAWNERS (Friends of the San Pablo Watershed), Friends of Arroyo Viejo Creek, and Friends of Wildcat Creek. Some of these groups have become their own successful independent non-profit organizations. Others remain a fiscally sponsored project of The Watershed Project. Some have transformed into Watershed Councils. The Watershed Project still acts as a fiscal sponsor for many and provides grants for over $100,000 a year to nearly a dozen watershed groups. We also and sponsor and