Point Blue's STRAW Program coordinates and sustains a network of teachers, students, restoration specialists and other community members to plan and implement watershed studies and restoration projects. STRAW's watershed science education activities emphasize project based learning and offer an integrated learning experience for students to work together, connect to their local watershed, and be empowered by their actions.
Each year approximately 3,500 students participate in 50 restoration work days, often planting 4,500 native plants!
Some of the program's goals include:
- improved student science skills,
- increased knowledge and stewardship of the local environment,
- improved teacher capacity to teach environmental and climate-smart restoration concepts,
- reconnected communities,
- climate-smart conservation to help reduce the impacts of environmental change.
“Beyond conservation, beyond preservation, restoration is the new frontier that will reverse environmental decline and mankind’s isolation from nature.” ~David Donnenfield
NEW! Check out Point Blue's new handout on riparian restoration: Restoration Works.
The STRAW Program engages a diverse network of partners and stakeholders to complete this work. We strive to include representative stakeholders who will affect or be affected by our restoration projects. Our partners include: schools; private landowners; public land management agencies; city municipalities; county departments of public works and flood control; city, county, regional and national parks services; resource conservation districts; non-profit conservation and preservation organizations; private restoration design firms; and other restoration specialists.
What is a watershed?
A watershed is an area of land where all of the precipitation that falls there drains to one main body of water. Learn more about the watersheds of Marin, Sonoma, and Napa, and Solano Counties.
Many human activities have significantly altered the health of our ecosystems and continue to threaten our future. STRAW empowers the community to reverse these adverse effects by facilitating professionally designed riparian and wetland restoration projects in the North Bay.
Why streams and wetlands?
Riparian and wetland habitats are critical for many wildlife species and ecosystem functions. Students work with us to restore native vegetation on creek banks and wetland transition zones, which stabilize eroding banks and restore functionality to important habitats for threatened and endangered animal species. Riparian areas, in particular, are critical wildlife corridors, connecting different habitat types in the watershed. These restoration projects contribute to the long-term protection and improvement of water and biological quality of streams, aquifers, and terrestrial resources of our watersheds in the North Bay.
Maintenance and Monitoring
In addition to the high quality of work done by the students during their restoration workday, the success of each restoration depends on site maintenance. Each site is maintained by STRAW staff, interns, volunteers and students when possible for three summers following its planting date. Though these native plants are well adapted to each site, being transplanted from their nursery pot into the ground causes stress. The two main plant establishment tasks of summer maintenance, weed control and irrigation, help ease these young plants into their historic habitat niche and increase their chance of long-term survival.
Monitoring is essential to assess each project’s success, improve our planning for future projects, and advance the understanding of effective restoration techniques throughout the North Bay. Plant and bird monitoring is conducted after the initial restoration work is done to assess short and long-term success. STRAW staff and interns provide monitoring by assessing plant establishment at each site. We use this data to inform future design by modifying our planting palette for each watershed based on which of the historically appropriate species thrive there. For long-term validation monitoring, Point Blue avian ecologists conduct bird surveys at project sites. The results from monitoring show that as restored sites mature, the number of breeding songbird species in the habitat increases. Our project partners at University of California Cooperative Extension provide another type of long-term validation monitoring, including channel stability assessment, water quality monitoring, and plant species composition monitoring.
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STRAW provides teachers with resources, materials, and technical support to integrate watershed content into their classroom. Environmental science education is delivered in coordination with other school science curriculum throughout the school year. STRAW maintains long-term relationships with teachers, many of whom return year after year. The STRAW Program operates under project-based, inquiry-based and place-based learning models.
Teacher Professional Development
Teachers who participate in the STRAW Program are invited to annual teacher professional development events including two Network Events and a three-day teacher training institute in August, called Watershed Week. This ongoing professional development program for teachers provides training in restoration methodology, investigative watershed studies, and project-oriented pedagogy, building teacher proficiency to deliver meaningful watershed-based experiences to their students.
The STRAW Faculty formed in August 2007 to support classroom teachers and students in their studies of the environment and their participation in the STRAW Program. The STRAW Faculty is composed of veteran teachers and other community members who serve as classroom resources. In addition to preparing students for their specific creek or wetlands restoration, STRAW Faculty partner with teachers, upon request, to teach specific lessons related to the students’ environmental studies. Our teachers may also request consultation with the Faculty to develop ideas for their environmental science curriculum.
Virtual Summit (links to past Virtual Summits coming soon)
The Virtual Summit showcases the on-the-ground and classroom projects from students and teachers in the STRAW Network. By sharing their experiences and projects, we hope to inspire more amazing and creative watershed-based work, while increasing awareness of student stewardship of the local environment and how these actions can help reduce negative impacts of environmental change.
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The STRAW Program was started by students in 1992 as the Shrimp Project in Laurette Rogers’ 4th grade classroom. The students were inspired to help the endangered California Freshwater Shrimp. By working with ranchers and professional restoration designers they planted native willows along Stemple Creek and began to restore the shrimp's riparian (streamside) habitat.
STRAW Transitioned from being a project of The Bay Institute to being a program of Point Blue Conservation Science in 2011.
See a "A Simple Question" documentary trailer below for more information on this great program's evolution.
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A Simple Question, produced, directed and written by David Donnefield and Kevin White, looks at a remarkable program that brings together school children and their teachers with community groups and agencies to undertake habitat restoration on privately-owned ranch land. It all started more than 21 years ago when Laurette Rogers, a fourth grade teacher, showed a film on endangered species to her class. Stricken by the weight of species extinction, one student plaintively asked what he and his class mates could do to save endangered species. That simple question, innocent yet profound, ignited something in Laurette that launched her and her class on an inspired voyage of discovery and transformation.
View the trailer below from Trent Boeschen on Vimeo. For more information on purchasing the film visit the A Simple Question website.
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