One of the goals of the Kalamazoo River Watershed Council is to encourage students and educators to engage with our local water resources, using the watershed for experiential learning.

The Kalamazoo River and its watershed offer many opportunities for place-based learning.  From raising salmon in your classroom to sampling streams for aquatic bugs (called macroinvertebrates), there are many ways to get students thinking about water quality and our impacts on the environment.  Here are a few examples.

Understanding and exploring invasives species can serve as a good place-based learning experience for any grades K-12.  Younger students can visit area parks and streams to see how invasive plants cause problems.  Lessons can be tailored to talk about animal habitats and what happens when an animal or plant for another place takes over the homes of our native species.  Older grades can explore the ecological implications of invasive species, everything from water level impacts to carrying capacity.  Students can actively participate in invasive species removal, which demonstrates the aggressive nature of many invasive plants and high cost of eradication.  Contact the Kalamazoo River Watershed Council to find specific locations and field leaders for your class.

Check out some Example lesson plans. (pdf)

For grades 9-12, aquatic macroinvertebrate sampling is a great way to connect students with nature up close and personal.  Students learn how to use sampling equipment by donning waders and using D-nets.  Students then spend time classifying their catch under microscopes and learn how to use taxonomic keys.  The concepts of ecosystem health are solidified as students categorize and score streams based on the types of macroinvertebrates found in the river.

Contact the KRWC to learn more about local efforts to monitor macroinvertebrates and discuss opportunities for students to engage in this important work.

One of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) most successful natural resources education programs for students is Salmon in the Classroom. It’s a year-long program in which teachers receive fertilized salmon eggs from a DNR fish hatchery in the fall, hatch them out, feed and raise the fry through spring, and then release the young salmon into a local river. Plus there’s a whole curriculum that goes with it.

The program teaches students about everything from the life history of fish, to the importance of the Great Lakes and fishing to Michigan’s culture. Even better, it ties directly back to their community as a great place-based educational effort.

Salmon in the Classroom in Big Bay, Mich. from Jenn Hill on Vimeo.

 The Michigan DNR can help educators develop and deliver a variety of wildlife education programs.  The DNR’s Wildlife Education Menu (pdf) has several topics and talks that DNR staff can present to your classroom free of charge.

Our local DNR wildlife division is also a great resource for developing projects in response to local resource concerns within the community.   As an example, high school students worked with the City of Portage’s Environmental Board and DNR staff to complete some white-tail deer research and field surveys to help the city measure the deer population.  The project incorporated math, science, spatial mapping, population ecology, and field work.  The students presented their findings and deer control recommendations to the Environmental Board and the information was used to educate the public and help with deer management strategies. 

No time to leave the classroom?  There are several models and simulators that can be used in the classroom to demonstrate surface and groundwater dynamics.  These models are made available to local schools and educational events by several local governments and organizations.  Contact KRWC for more information.

Examples of water models include:

  • Enviroscape Model – allows students to interact with and explore land use, pollution, and the impacts on water quality from a watershed perspective
  • Floodplain Model – an interactive model used to demonstrate the impacts of different land use types on local hydrology and flooding
  • Ground Water Simulator – an interactive way to demonstrate the properties and complexities of our groundwater system and drinking water aquifers

Learn more about the natural features of our watershed, plans in place to restore and improve our waters, and how to become a volunteer!