Effective watershed management is dependent on the having the scientific information to guide management decisions and on the social values of the communities living within the watershed. A common barrier to sustainable watershed management is that the people living within the watershed lack an understanding of basic watershed concepts and how it relates to human and ecosystem health. A starting point for increasing awareness of watershed ecology concepts is at the elementary level (k-5), but educational materials at this level often lack instructional resources related to land use impacts on watersheds. Our objective was to develop mobile instructional resources to be used within fifth grade classrooms within the Sugar Creek watershed in northeast Ohio. This 922 km2 watershed has been identified as one of the most impaired watersheds in the state. Land use consists mostly of family farms and dairies, some of which are managed by Mennonite German or Amish farmers. Meetings with fifth grade school teachers were organized so the resources were teacher driven. We adapted existing instructional materials and developed new materials on watershed ecology topics within the context of this particular watershed. Additionally, mobile kits were developed so that the instructional materials were available to all elementary schools within the watershed.
We developed four mobile kits intended to teach the concepts of watershed hydrology, the watershed as an ecosystem, anthropogenic impacts on watershed health, and conducting ecological research within a watershed. Instructional materials included in each kit consist of a pre-assessment, a post-assessment, a five day lesson plan, and materials required for exercises that build upon each concept addressed. Additionally, the exercises involve the use of traditional and active learning teaching methods to teach watershed concepts that meet the state of Ohio academic content standards. This approach of educational outreach through elementary education fosters awareness of the Sugar Creek watershed not just with the students, but also in the teachers and the parents within the school system.