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Wetland Stewards Activities & Events

Most of the Stewards' time is spent in the classroom, in the lab, in the field, and with middle school students. (See the Wetland Stewards page.)

Protecting the Wetlands — One Step at a Time

by Wetland Steward High School Intern Xianjia Huang

Wetland Steward interns Xianjia Huang and Pablo Robles arrange their mosaics with the help of mosaic artist Sandee Adams of Aromas Hills Artisans

The Wetland Stewards interns took a dive into creativity by making mosaic stepping stones for the Wetland Stewards’ garden at the Wetlands Educational Resource Center. In the course of a few weeks Wetland Stewards designed and crafted their own mosaics of everything from the sun to birds, snakes, foxes, and even animal tracks.

Of course, the most enjoyable part was of the most destructive step, the first step: smashing the tiles into small pieces. Next, the stewards glued the pieces together into the shape of their design. The tiles were donated by Paul Burns, the owner of Fireclay Tile in Aromas. Some of the tiles were recycled from porcelain. The Stewards got their hands dirty as they filled in the empty spaces of their mosaic stepping stone with grout. “Working on the mosaics was a great experience and I got to learn how to make something amazing,” commented Mayra Hernandez, a Wetland Steward.

This process was aided by professional stained glass artists Cathy Gamble and Linda Bjornson as well as by Sandee Adams, a professional mosaic artist. These volunteers had to climb many boxes to find the desired tiles. Linda commented that it was exciting and fun to help the Stewards craft their mosaic stepping stones. Cathy felt that such activies are good counter weights to negative teenage stereotypes. The Wetland Stewards’ designs were reviewed by these veteran artists as well.

The stepping stones are a part of the Wetland Steward Garden, which reflect the wetland theme and provides a trail for visitors. The freshly laid trail will help guide guests through a path that will educate them about native wetlands plants such as California Wild Rose, Lupine, Coyote Brush, and many more .

This fun project gave the Stewards the opportunity to influence the generation to come in helping the environment, one stepping stone at a time.


Wetland Stewards Help Elementary School Students Understand Local Cultural History

During a recent field trip to the wetlands, Mintie White and Radcliffe Elementary School students explored the cultural history of native people of the Pajaro Valley with Patrick Orozco. Patrick is a local man of Chumash and Juaneño decent. He painted a picture of what the valley looked like hundreds of years ago and how the wetlands have been an integral part of his culture. He shared legends and myths, dances, and songs with the students and invited them to dance, and play instruments along with him. Here is a video of a student dancing with Patrick: (Hover mouse pointer over picture and click on arrow at bottom left to start video clip.)

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Barn Owl
Wetland Steward Jose Alanis and students from Radcliffe elementary play songs with Patrick Orozco in the wetlands.

A story* he shared with us explained how people learned about a medicinal use for elderberry:

“One night, a family ate a mash made of acorns, but became very sick. The man left to go sit by the river and saw a hungry bear nearby. He decided to put the acorn mash out for the bear to eat and watch what happened to the bear. After eating the mash, the bear became very sick and began to moan and wander about. After some time, the bear found an elderberry bush, began to dig, and ate the roots of the plant. After watching the bear, the man collected elderberry root, and was able to cure his family’s stomach aches.”

During the field trip, the students also went birding and did a photo scavenger hunt. The activities were led by our high school Wetland Stewards, with help from docents Donna Zavada, Sharon Clark, and Debbie Diersch.

*This story is not intended to provide specific information about the edibility or medicinal qualities of native plants, but rather to provide readers with information to better understand the wild plants of the Pajaro Valley and their traditional uses. No recommendation is expressed or implied regarding the use of the plants described. We recommend always consulting a physician or trained herbalist for food and medicinal uses, and always ensuring that a plant is properly identified before use or consumption.
Many local populations of native plants are relatively small and are suffering from a variety of threats that place them in danger of disappearing altogether. Because of these threats native plants should not be collected from the wild unless the collector is absolutely certain that the plant population that is being collected from is very healthy and will not be harmed by collection. The amount of material collected should never exceed the regenerative capacity of the plant population. Collectors must always obtain permission from the landowner.

Wetland Stewards’ Video Project

The following video was a student project presented at the Stewards’ 2008 graduation, described further below. Brenda Hermosillo (9th grade) and Edgar Toledo (12th grade) created the video.

Two highlights of the Wetland Stewards' year were the Stewards' graduation and celebration and, previously, a two-day field trip to Big Sur:

Wetland Stewards Class of 2007 – 08

Seven Wetland Stewards, who are in high school, went out with a bang at our June 2, 2008 final presentations and celebration. They made their parents proud as they presented their personal projects to their families, Watsonville Wetlands Watch staff, board members, docents, and other guests. These presentations were the culmination of the students’ year-long internships at the Fitz WERC. Each student pursued his or her personal interest and that resulted in unique and diverse projects like a video, bird boxes around the wetlands, a petition to help protect our coastline, and an interactive plant guide.

Stewards' Presentation

Students present project

Wetland Stewards and one of their mentors

Cara Sundell, Teaching Assistant at the Fitz WERC, starts the Wetland Stewards award presentations.

But that’s not all the Wetland Stewards did this year. During the 2007 – 08 school year, the Wetland Stewards went through a 5-week training where they learned about the importance of our local wetlands, ecological restoration, and techniques for inquiry-based learning. This prepared them to lead 12 field trips for visiting elementary school and middle school students from Pajaro Middle School, MacQuiddy Elementary, and Ramsay Park Family Center. The Wetland Stewards served as mentors to these younger students and helped them develop an appreciation and excitement for their local environment through fun games, activities, and trips to the wetlands. Little by little the word is getting out that the Watsonville wetlands are a precious natural resource worth exploring and protecting!

Big Sur Field Trip

To reward the Wetland Stewards for all their hard work and further develop their knowledge and appreciation of their natural environment, the Stewards and two mentors spent two days camping and exploring Big Sur in May 2008. They walked miles of beautiful redwood trails, discovered dozens of wildflowers, helped band birds with the Ventana Wildlife Society, roasted marshmallows, fell into creeks, and came home exhausted! It was a trip they say they'll never forget!

Wetland Stewards at Big Sur

Wetland Stewards at Big Sur, May 2008

Lazuli Bunting

A Lazuli Bunting the Stewards helped band at the Big Sur Ornithology Lab provided an exciting up-close look at bird life there.