Upper Tennessee River (Knox County) Adopt-A-Watershed Program
MISSION & GOALS
The Adopt-A-Watershed (AAW) Program is dedicated to inspiring students to become life long learners and watershed stewards who strive to create a healthy quality of life for current and future generations. Its goals are to:
- Build bridges between schools and communities
- Bring real life experience to school curriculum, making it relevant to students’ everyday lives
- Engage students in meaningful projects that can truly make a difference in their community
EDUCATIONAL STRATEGY: PLACE-BASED LEARNING
Place-based learning is an instructional approach that uses the local community and its environment as a context for standards-based learning. It involves students participating in multi-disciplinary projects that meet real community needs through problem solving and other meaningful tasks and culminates in valuable student-generated products or services.
A Living Laboratory: The schools’ adopted watersheds and the communities within them are transformed into “living laboratories” in which to learn. This laboratory becomes a place to bring curriculum to life by conducting projects that make valuable contributions to the community. In the process, students acquire knowledge and skills, build relationships, solve problems, overcome obstacles, make decisions, and take action.
Multi- and Interdisciplinary Approach: Teachers of multiple disciplines — biology, chemistry, ecology, social studies, and history, to name a few – independently or jointly use this living laboratory. Watersheds know no boundaries between disciplines and are therefore ideal places to conduct projects where classes come together to address a community issue.
Hands-On Curricula: Curricula are used from the national AAW program and from other excellent programs such as Project WET, Project Wild and the TVA Water Quality Monitoring Network as well as created by local AAW supporting staff. Their implementation provides valuable baseline knowledge and skills needed by students to carry out their projects.
Community Bridge: Student projects meet genuine needs of the community. Teachers, school administrators, students and community partners team up to devise projects that can make a valuable contribution to the community and its environment while also meeting classroom needs.
PROGRAM HISTORY & EVOLUTION
AAW was a nonprofit founded in 1989 in Haystack, California that promoted educational enhancement, environmental stewardship, and community development through place-based learning. Its founder, Kim Stokely developed a set of K-12 curricula and trained AAW teams throughout the country in its implementation. Its teams have been comprised of teachers, school administrators and community members who together have planned and implemented place-based service-learning projects. In 1997, Water Quality Forum (WQF) members attended its first national AAW training and returned to implement it that fall in five Knox County schools, adopting five local watersheds with one science teacher participating from each school.
Over the past thirteen years, the Knox County AAW Program has expanded five-fold in the number of participating teachers, tripled in the number of involved schools and expanded to nine watersheds. It is primarily conducted in Knox County middle and high schools; however, AAW is now also being implemented in private schools and the Tennessee School for the Deaf. AAW is cross-curricular and it continues to seek opportunities to conduct projects that involve multiple disciplines in addressing watershed issues.
AMERICORPS WATER QUALITY TEAM
The growth of AAW in Knox County has been possible, in large part, through the work of the CAC AmeriCorps Water Quality Team. This seven-member team is currently sponsored by the Knox County Stormwater Program and is trained to assist teachers in conducting quality AAW place-based learning projects. All WQT members are college graduates, with the majority of them having studied in the sciences. Each of these highly motivated individuals have made a conscious decision to dedicate a year of their lives to educating and involving citizens of Knox County in the protection and enhancement of their local watersheds.
AAW PLACE BASED SERVICE LEARNING EXAMPLES
Through the combined dedication of the AAW teachers, the AmeriCorps Team and its supporting WQF partners, the scope and depth of AAW projects have expanded in their depth, complexity, and scope since it inception in Knox County in 1997. Following are examples of the types of curriculum-based projects that have been conducted:
- High school construction trades class learns about low-impact- development strategies and then build a shed with a functional “green roof.”
- Middle school science students develop a broadcasted TV PSA on taking green pledges.
- High school classes develop an outdoor classroom with walking trails, an amphitheatre, and gardens.
- Ecology classes conduct a comprehensive watershed investigation, identifying significant and reportable issues including chlorine leaks and high bacteria levels in streams.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
The Knox County AAW Program is coordinated by the Tennessee Water Resources Research Center located at the University of Tennessee on behalf of the Knox County Stormwater Program (http://www.knoxcounty.org/stormwater/) and its supporting Water Quality Forum partners. To learn more about AAW, contact Ruth Anne Hanahan at email@example.com or at 865-974-9124.