Spring 2018 California Project WET Gazette
Volume XXlll, Issue Il
Crazy weather patterns or not, life is resurging – springing back – in the plant world around us. Yes, our evergreen neighbors have been active throughout the winter, hoping to take advantage of the dormancy of their deciduous relatives to catch a bit more solar energy in what is usually our wettest season of the year. But as week by week daylight hours lengthen and average temperatures rise, a rainbow of color grows across the landscape as an increasing array of flowers unfurl and buds burst into new leaves as urban tree canopies begin to shade city streets and homes.
Those seeds some of you may have decided to plant for “The Life Box” experiment will be rising in their pots, shrugging off their soil bedding like some ancient serpents before unfurling stubby new leaves in welcome to the sun. Many of us will be getting our garden beds ready for planting at some point during this season and salivating the return of fresh vegetables or have already caved in to the urge to add more plant life to our home landscapes. Unfortunately, our bedazzlement by floral beauties or desire to nurture new plant life in our home landscapes tends to make us forget it takes more than sunlight and decent soil to sustain that life during our long hot summers – It also can take a LOT of water!
How much water can a plant use? The Project WET activity “Thirsty Plants” (Guide 1.0 – Portal) engages students in investigating this very question and pins it to a larger question tying it to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) – What do the plants in your backyard have to do with the water cycle? I always flip the activity and begin with students “bagging” plants to fully utilize precious class time and to immediately engage students. A large plastic bag (a 1-gallon Ziploc works fine) is given to each team of 2-3 students, who weigh it on a scale sensitive enough to record the weight of the bag; however, if you don’t have access to a scale like this simply having students record what they observe in the bag before and after works – we all do what we can with the resources (and budgets) we are given.
Student teams then choose a plant with green leaves in the sun and work together to carefully slide the bag over as many leaves as they can get into the bag – counting the number of leaves sliding into the bag and being very careful to NOT break any leaves off the plant. Once completed, the bag is cinched closed around the stem below the leaves and students record the number of leaves in their bag and the time their bag was closed – leaving the bags on the plant as they rejoin the rest of the class.
Other than directing students in setting up the investigation, resist the urge to start downloading what you know about the process being investigated and you’ll likely be rewarded with plenty of questions on why we are bagging plants today. Plants need water like all known living organisms on Earth and the investigation with the bags is to try to get an idea how much water the plants in the schoolyard might be using – Our bodies cool themselves through perspiration; plants do it through a process called transpiration. Ask students to sketch their plant and diagram with arrows and descriptions how they think water moves in, out and through their plant.
It works well to have students develop their own diagram, then compare notes with their partner to allow you to walk around to get a sense of what they already know by observing their diagrams. Ask the teams to think about how the plant use of water connects to the water cycle – Where is the plant getting the water it needs and how did it get there? How do they think water is leaving the plant and where might it be going? Before class ends, students carefully retrieve their bags, record the time of retrieval and record the weight and/or their observation of how much water has been collected in their bag.
How did the water get in the bags? Unless you have the rare moss fanatic in your class, all of the plants bagged were vascular with xylem as the primary water transport tissue. Instead of using as directed in the ‘Thirsty Plants’, the classic “dye in the celery” demonstration can be used as one station on a day focused on exploring and building knowledge of plant water transport structures and the process of transpiration. Station #2 could be the tube models described in “Thirsty Plants” to help students visualize how the vaporization and expelling of water molecules in plant leaves create a vacuum that literally sucks up the water molecules further down in the xylem. Oak wood has xylem vessels large enough to see with the naked eye, though hand lenses add more detail – you can pair this with microscope or projected images of xylem vessels or water transport systems in other plants for a third station. A fourth station would have students looking at different kinds of plants and their adaptations related to water use and a fifth could be looking at how common California plants grow in different parts of the state. Students revise their diagrams where needed to explain how plants transport water through the process of transpiration.
Do plants transpire water at the same rate? Older grades may just want to skip the xylem investigation and go right to students graphing and comparing results from their transpiration bags – did the plants the students bagged give off the same or different amounts of water? If not, have students think about how many leaves they were able to get in their bags versus the total number on the plant – can they develop a method for estimating the total number of leaves on their plant? Let each team share their ideas, then decide as a class which method they think would be best – they may decide more than one method is needed in order to better develop estimates for leaves on different kinds of plants.
Students use the method(s) chosen by the class to estimated number of leaves on their plants. The class will then need to decide how to calculate an estimate for the total amount of water their plant may have transpired during the time of the investigation. How much water may have collected if the entire plant was bagged for a day or week, if one assumes the transpiration rate continues at the same rate during daylight hours? I always ask students if the numbers make sense and what questions they may have regarding their results to get them into the practice of double-checking their calculations, questioning the methods used for calculation (and the big assumption in this example) and any variables that may affect the results. The questions can form the basis for the students to plan and carry out further investigations.
This is a great point to convert the volume of estimated water use by each team’s plant into the cost of the water based on the local price of water. The figures are often pretty stunning and can open the door to a variety of avenues for further investigations, including finding out what kind of plants are found throughout the schoolyard and what value – shading, erosion control, aesthetics, wildlife, etc. – they may provide to justify the water they use and if more water-efficient plant options are available as suggested in “Thirsty Plants.”
Others may want to have students investigate plant adaptations related to their rate of transpiration and water use – several examples are included in the Guide 1.0 “Water Address” (Portal) activity. A landscape “Water Audit” (p: 469)” can be integrated into the Project WET activity of the same name to assess how much water is used in the school landscape versus by staff and students. The Guide 1.0 activity “Irrigation Interpretation” (Portal) includes simulation of different irrigation methods and assessing the efficiency of each in different circumstances. Each of these potential courses for expanding beyond the “Thirsty Plants” activity is an opportunity to invite in local water agency audit staff, Master Gardeners, school maintenance staff or professional landscapers to share their expertise and knowledge with students. It also sets up an opportunity for students to engage in a potential project to design a garden or recommend alternatives to existing school landscape.
Landscape water use can consume up to 60% of water used in residential landscapes, so as the land and our yards begin to dry out this Spring, we all can have an opportunity to make a significant difference in our water use and bills by looking into what we are watering in our landscape. It also is a good time to check our irrigation systems for leaks, damaged emitters and consider changes that can be made to reduce our water use by increasing the efficiency of the water we use – inside and outside.
Check out the “Websites of Interest” for some wonderful links to aid in studying landscape water use. There also are a number of “Spring Events” coming up aimed at raising awareness of our water use and measures to improve water conservation and efficiency. Please also take a look at “Grants and Student Opportunities” and “Professional Development” – this latter section includes links to learn about upcoming Project WET workshops.
Hope you have a wonderful Spring!
WEBSITES OF INTEREST
Californiadrought.org is a project of the Pacific Institute in Oakland, California, one of the world’s leading independent nonprofits researching and finding solutions to freshwater issues. The website compiles tools, research, and information on the California drought to facilitate the work at every level to understand, plan for, and find sustainable water management solutions in the face of a drier future for the western United States with changing conditions from climate change.
Transpiration is the process by which moisture is carried through plants from roots to small pores on the underside of leaves, where it changes to vapor and is released to the atmosphere. Transpiration is essentially evaporation of water from plant leaves. During a growing season, a leaf will transpire many times more water than its own weight. An acre of corn gives off about 3,000-4,000 gallons (11,400-15,100 liters) of water each day, and a large oak tree can transpire 40,000 gallons (151,000 liters) per year.
KhanAcademy: C3, C4, and CAM Plants
High crop yields are pretty important—for keeping people fed, and also for keeping economies running. If you heard there was a single factor that reduced the yield of wheat by 20% and the yield of soybeans by 36%, you might be curious to know what is that factor. The factor is photorespiration. It uses up fixed carbon, wastes energy, and tends to happen when plants close their stomata (leaf pores) to reduce water loss. High temperatures make it even worse!
Californians have made great strides in their commitment to water conservation and are showing that even the smallest changes can have a big impact. On average, 30-60% of the water Californians consume is used outdoors. Read some of the stories of Californians who have reimagined their yard landscapes and find tips to reduce outdoor water usage while still maintaining a beautiful yard!
Did you know that residential outdoor water use across the United States accounts for nearly 9 billion gallons of water each day, mainly for landscape irrigation? The average U.S. household uses more water outdoors than for showering and washing clothes combined. Before you ramp up your watering efforts, spruce up your irrigation system by remembering four simple steps: inspect, connect, direct, and select.
When a landscape or irrigation system is poorly designed or poorly maintained, or the landscape consists of plants not suited to the dry and often hot California climate, water demand increases as a result of excessive evaporation, leaks, and runoff. Water consumption can be greatly reduced with careful planning, good plant selection, efficient irrigation systems, and good water management and maintenance.
Water dedicated to landscape can often be reduced by 20 to 40 percent because over irrigation is very common. Water restrictions and conservation should be taken into consideration when deciding on starting an edible home garden. If local water allocation allows for an edible garden, homeowners can grow fruits and vegetables in their backyard using water-wise practices. Check out our information sheet “Keeping Plants Alive under Drought or Water Restrictions.”
The mission of the Gardening Program is to promote, support and encourage the appropriate use of California Native plants in public and private gardens and landscapes. In addition to their natural beauty, incorporating native plants into your own garden offers many benefits for both you and our environment – they provide water-conserving, drought-tolerant and sustainable garden design choices.Check-out our Calscape page to learn about California plant characteristics – including plant water use!
Developed by the city of San Diego, The Watering Calculator provides customized watering schedules by zip code based on data from the California Irrigation Management Information System (CIMIS) weather station network. The calculator uses average numbers for weather, plants, and soils within zip codes of the urban Southern California area. These are only suggested run times, so you will need to observe plant health and/or soil moisture levels and make adjustments as necessary. The Watering Calculator is not adjusted for drought conditions or watering restrictions and should only be used as a guide.
Improving urban water-use efficiency is a key solution to California’s water challenges: from drought to unsustainable groundwater use to growing tensions over limited supplies. Improving water-use efficiency and reducing waste can save energy, lower water and wastewater treatment costs, and eliminate the need for costly new infrastructure.
The Landscape Coefficient Method (LCM) describes a method of estimating irrigation needs of landscape plantings in California. It is intended as a guide for landscape professionals. It includes information that is based on research and on field experience (observation). Readers are advised that LCM calculations give estimates of water needs, not exact values, and adjustments to irrigation amounts may be needed in the field.
Water in California is shared across three main sectors. Statewide, average water use is roughly 50% environmental, 40% agricultural, and 10% urban, although the percentage of water use by sector varies dramatically across regions and between wet and dry years. Some of the water used by each of these sectors returns to rivers and groundwater basins and can be used again.
The New California Landscape promotes a balance between urban landscapes and the environment. These landscapes are suited to the Sacramento Region’s Mediterranean- type climate and support a rich diversity of plants and wildlife. The carefully selected plants in these designs make caring for the landscape easier, even for the beginning gardener. These plants also provide food and shelter for many types of birds, butterflies, and beneficial insects.
Tree loss is a very costly problem in the loss of the benefits trees provide, including providing shade to reduce water needs in the underlying landscape and keeping your home cooler, slowing stormwater runoff and helping recharge groundwater and reducing soil erosion. California ReLeaf, Save Our Water, and the U.S. Forest Service have partnered together to create two how-to videos to show California residents how to best care for their trees during drought.
Extend ‘Thirsty Plants,’ ‘Water Audit,’ ‘My Water Footprint’ or ‘Irrigation Interpretation’ by investigating your garden irrigation settings to get an estimate of how the water footprint of your garden stacks up against the footprint to grow a variety of common California crops. Innovative farming practices and technologies proven successful by California’s farmers are often implemented in other parts of the nation and the world.
Project WET Foundation Board of Directors member and Astronaut Ricky Arnold will return to space, this time for a six-month stint on the International Space Station. A former science teacher, Ricky will be taking part in NASA’s Year of Education on Station initiative, sharing his love of STEM and passion for teaching. Before beginning his final launch preparations, Ricky agreed to answer eight questions about water and space for Project WET educators. Follow along using the #AstroFriday hashtag to see all the questions and answers!
About the size of a beagle, they can quickly turn a lush green marsh to a wasteland. Females can have litters of a dozen or more and become pregnant within 48 hours after giving birth, their fertility adding to the speed with which this South American rodent can fan across a landscape, burrowing into levees and and destroying wetlands along the way. They are called nutria, and right now they’re starting to spread through the waterways leading into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the ecologically fragile network of sloughs and rivers that functions as the heart of California’s flood-control and water distribution system.
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITIES
Our volunteer network of workshop Facilitators have been hard at work designing and organizing workshops. On tap for the upcoming season are Project WET workshops highlighting watershed processes and aquatic ecosystems (in Chico with Aquatic WILD!), water education and the Next Generation Science Standards (Merced) and a water focused environmental literacy workshop for Secondary educators (Santa Monica Mountains).
Climate change is having a profound impact on state water resources. Understanding Climate Change workshops provide an opportunity for formal and conformal K-12 educators to interact with the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) Climate Change team for a day of learning about the basics of climate science, how California agencies at all levels are applying climate science to safeguard California water resources – and how Project WET activities can help you integrate climate science concepts and skills back in the classroom. Join us in Kings County this May!
These one-week institutes bring together natural resource specialists and K-12 teachers for one week, working side by side to gain a deeper understanding of the intricate interrelationship of forest ecosystems and human use of natural resources. You’ll walk away with a wealth of knowledge and environmental education curriculum- including Project Learning Tree, Project WILD and Aquatic WILD! A $25 registration fee includes all housing, meals and materials you will receive throughout the week – and an opportunity to receive credit and a $200 stipend! Register for a summer 2018 location now!
Vast riparian forests, wetlands, vernal pools and grasslands loaded with once sprawled across a far more biologically diverse Central Valley that sprung from the seasonal ebb and flow of flood waters swelling the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers and all their tributaries, from Red Bluff and Fresno to converge on the Delta. Come learn about issues plaguing California’s aging flood and water conveyance systems and the floodplain restoration can play in not only safeguarding our homes and business from flooding, but also providing other ecosystem services ranging from increased biological diversity to improving water quality – Join us in Stockton, Fresno, Woodland or Chico this summer!
Calling All Teachers & Leaders! Join us June 18-22, 2018 and grow your skills in exploring shoreline science and the wonders of water. NGSS and Common Core emphasize exploring natural systems, student-driven questioning, and community-based learning. Together we will develop instructional sequences (5E) and take stewardship action starting in our local watersheds and ending with our toes in the sand. This course is ideal for teachers using either the Integrated Preferred Model for Middle School, or high school teachers who seek to integrate Earth Science into a 3 Course Model.
The UC California Naturalist program collaborates with local partner organizations to deliver the certification course near you. To become a California Naturalist, you need to enroll in a 40+ hour course with one of our below partner organizations in the “Partners” tab. The “Statewide Partners” tab includes those agencies and organizations that we collaborate with to meet the goals of our statewide mission. Scroll below the map to view a course calendar and learn more about the benefits of joining our growing community and becoming a California Naturalist.
The EEI Curriculum is 85 K-12 grade units that teaches standards through an environmental lens, including understanding resources, conservation, where our food, energy, and water come from, and complicated decision-making processes related to climate change, green chemistry and use of our public lands. California examples make learning relevant and stimulate student involvement with the world around them. Click here to see a list of correlating Project WET activities to use with individual EEI units!
The California Regional Environmental Education Community (CREEC), administered by the California Department of Education, is an on-line hub offering a searchable database of for a variety of resources, including professional development, field trip and grant opportunities from over 500 informal education providers across the state. Click on your region, then search the events calendar to find a wonderful array of environment based professional development opportunities!
March 19-25, 2018: Fix a Leak Week
Are you ready to chase down leaks? Household leaks can waste more than 1 trillion gallons of water annually nationwide, so each year we hunt down the drips during Fix a Leak Week. Mark your calendars for EPA”s tenth annual Fix a Leak Week — but remember that you can find and fix leaks inside and outside your home to save valuable water and money all year long. From family fun runs to leak detection contests to WaterSense demonstrations, Fix a Leak Week events happen from coast to coast and are all geared to teach you how to find and fix household leaks.
March 22, 2018: World Water Day
Each year, World Water Day highlights a specific aspect of the issues involved in supplying freshwater around the world. Under the theme “Nature for Water” World Water Day 2018 will focus on the potential of nature-based solutions for water and how they can be considered for water management policy and practice.
March 28 – 29, 2018: Children’s Water Education Festival
The Children’s Water Education Festival is the largest event of its kind in the United States and held at the University of California, Irvine. The Festival is a unique opportunity to educate Orange County third, fourth and fifth grade students about local water issues and understand how they can protect water supplies and the environment. The 2017 Festival has reached capacity, but you can host your own school water education festival using the Project WET activity ‘Water Celebration’ (Portal)
April 6 – 14, 2018: Creek Week 2018
Be part of an area-wide volunteer effort to improve and enhance our urban waterways. Our creeks flow into the Sacramento and American rivers and taking action to promote stream health benefits our rivers! You will have a great time and feel great about the work you have done to help protect our environment, while also taking a break to enjoy these activities. Just run down the ‘Surface Water: Watersheds’ and ‘Quality’ columns in the Topics appendix of your Project WET guide to find great activities like ‘Sum of the Parts’ (p: 283) and ‘There’s No Away’ (p: 453) that tie directly into Creek Week!
April 21- 29, 2018: National Park Week
National Park Week is America’s largest celebration of national heritage. It’s about making great connections, exploring amazing places, discovering open spaces, enjoying affordable vacations and enhancing America’s best idea—the national parks! The National Park Service is partnering with the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks, to present National Park Week- and the first day – April 21 – is a free park entrance day to kick off the celebration!
April 23 – 29, 2018: National Environmental Education Week
The National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) invites you to join the nation’s largest celebration of environmental education in the 14th annual National Environmental Education Week . Each year, NEEF partners with educators, students, government agencies, businesses, communities, nonprofit organizations, and others to inspire environmental learning and encourage stewardship of our essential resources: land, air, and water.
April 27 – 29, 2018: AEOE Statewide Spring Conference
The Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education is a statewide organization that has been created for and by the outdoor and environmental educators of our state. Our volunteer run organization is charged with providing a diverse pool of trained educators that is knowledgeable and skilled at educating today’s youth about the natural world. Join us in “Creating a Culture of Science” at Camp Hess Kramer in Malibu!
May 2018: California Water Awareness Month
Californians have made great strides in their commitment to water conservation and are embracing wise water use as a daily habit. From taking shorter showers and installing water efficient toilets and appliances, to transforming outdoor landscapes to be more California-friendly, Californians are showing that – rain or shine – saving water is part of the California lifestyle. During May, water agencies throughout California find creative ways to connect with their communities to promote water-use efficiency and provide practical tools. Check-out the Topics appendix in your Project WET guide to find great activities to tie in with California Water Awareness Month!
May 10, 2018: State Scientists Day
Each year, thousands of students from area grade schools come to the State Capitol for a fun-filled field trip to enjoy State Scientist Day. State scientists don’t disappoint, with a myriad of kid-friendly, hands-on displays showcasing the essential and fascinating work of state scientists. The event showcases the important work performed by state scientists to protect public health, the environment and California’s natural resources. It’s an important part of promoting state scientists with key decision makers and best of all, lots of fun for everyone involved!
June 2 –June 10, 2018: California Invasive Species Action Week
The goals of the California Invasive Species Action Week (CISAW) are to increase public awareness of invasive species issues and promote public participation in the fight against California’s invasive species and their impacts on our natural resources. Help us celebrate California’s Invasive Species Action Week, by volunteering to take action to help stop the spread of invasive species, Find an event near you by visiting our list of 2018 Schedule of Events! Don’t forget to check out the Project WET activity ‘Invaders’ (p: 263)!
Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching – Deadline: April 1, 2018
The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) are the nation’s highest honors for teachers of mathematics and science (including computer science). Awardees serve as models for their colleagues, inspiration to their communities, and leaders in the improvement of science and mathematics education. Nominations are now open until April 1st for 2017 to honor teachers working in grades K – 6. Applications are due on May 1, 2018.
Stockholm Junior Water Prize - Applications Due: April 15, 2018
The Stockholm Junior Water Prize competition is the world’s most prestigious water-science competition for students. The purpose of the SJWP program is to increase students” interest in water-related issues and research and to raise awareness about global water challenges. The winner of the California competition will advance to the national level, and the winner of that event will represent America at the global competition in Sweden.
Carton 2 Garden Contest - Deadline: April 16, 2018
Show us your students’ creativity by re-purposing milk and juice cartons from your school cafeteria to either build or enhance your school garden. Educators can engage students in a hands-on experience creating teachable moments on environmental stewardship, sustainable packaging and healthy living. The best use of cartons in a school garden gives your school the chance to win one of 14 prizes with a grand prize valued at $5,000. We can’t wait to see your students” creations—carton planters, garden art, scarecrows, window boxes, irrigation systems… The more creative, the better!
Gloria Barron Prize For Young Heroes - Deadline: April 15, 2018
The Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes celebrates inspiring, public-spirited, highly diverse young people from all across America. Each year, the Barron Prize annually honors 25 outstanding young leaders ages 8 to 18 who have made a significant positive impact on people, communities, and the environment. The top ten winners each receive a $10,000 to be applied to their higher education or to their service project. The primary goal of the Prize is to shine the spotlight on these amazing young people so that their stories will inspire others.
Ocean Guardian School - Deadline: May 1, 2018
Does your school have what it takes to help protect the ocean for the future? Promote ocean conservation at your school or in your local community by becoming an Ocean Guardian School. An Ocean Guardian School makes a commitment to the protection and conservation of its local watersheds, the world’s ocean, and special ocean areas, like national marine sanctuaries by proposing and then implementing a school- or community-based conservation project. The 2017 – 2018 application will be on the website by April 1, 2018.
Bow Seat Marine Debris Competition - Deadline: June 18, 2018
If you care about marine debris issues and want to make a difference in your community, we invite you and other middle and high school students from the United States to participate in the first-ever Bow Seat Marine Debris Creative Advocacy Competition! Enter individually or rally a group to work together. There is no fee to enter the Competition. The goal of this Competition is to reduce or prevent marine debris from entering our oceans and watersheds. Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs is proud to offer awards of up to $5,000 to students and student groups whose projects most effectively raise awareness of and address the marine debris problem through creativity, community engagement, and activism.
2018 Ocean Awareness Student Contest - Deadline: June 18, 2018
We invite middle and high school students from around the world to participate in the Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Student Contest! This year’s theme is ‘Our Oceans in a Changing Climate.’ Climate change is the biggest issue of your lifetime. Your whole life will be lived as the impacts of global climate change are taking place. Our Contest is a call for young artists, thinkers, and activists who are concerned about the future of our human and natural communities to use their creative voices to explore, express, and advocate for issues related to climate change and our oceans.
California Project WET Gazette is published by the Water Education Foundation, which serves as the state coordinator for Project WET USA, a program of the Project WET Foundation.
Editor: Brian Brown, California Project WET Coordinator