Watershed moment for 900 young students

Friends of Tryon Creek program offers hands-on instruction in the field
by: VERN UYETAKE Matthew Collins, education director for the Friends of Tryon Creek, and education coordinator Linda Koser use an umbrella and a spray bottle to demostrate water runoff to students.

When you have the great outdoors there is no problem with classroom overcrowding - even with all 900 fifth- and sixth-graders in Lake Oswego enrolled in the watershed basics class, a partnership between the Friends of Tryon Creek and Lake Oswego School District.

It is the third year for the watershed program, and this year should be the best ever.

'The first two years were a great success. We learned quite a bit,' said Matthew Collins, education director for the Friends of Tryon Creek, or FOTC. 'It's different this year. Being able to touch all 900 fifth- and sixth-graders is an incredible opportunity.'

The watershed program, offering hands-on instruction about watersheds and their importance to environmental health, was created by former FOTC education director Stephanie Wagner and was further developed by Collins. He will get a big assist this year from education coordinator Linda Koser, who has been with the program from the start.

After the opening class last week, she is greatly encouraged for this year's effort.

'I can really tell a difference this year,' said Koser, who trains and coordinates volunteers and handles the teaching. 'The first year it was hard for the students to get the concept of a watershed. Their understanding of concepts is much better. It makes us feel really good.'

This year the 900 students will take a tour of the Oswego Lake watershed, beginning with a headwaters exploration in Waluga Park all the way to its confluence with the Willamette River at George Rogers Park. Plus they will be going right into their own backyards.

Along the way the students will examine how humans affect the overall health of the watershed. Classes will continue through April.

'We want to increase the knowledge of watersheds because all things are water-based in Lake Oswego,' said Steve Mauritz, principal of Hallinan Elementary and a longtime leader of science education in the school district.

Mauritz noted that this is a crucial year for the watershed program, with the school district scheduled to close three schools. This will certainly impact the LOSD's water education curriculum.

'I'm absolutely happy with what has been accomplished in the past three years,' Mauritz said.

Some outstanding people are leading the watershed basics program, but more are needed.

'With so many students it takes lots of volunteers,' Koser said. 'If people are interested they can call Matthew or myself.'

The FOTC contact number is 503-636-4398.