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20 Years and 33,000 Students Later: Point Blue’s STRAW Program Exceeds 450 Bay Area restorations

Participating in the STRAW Program. Photo by Leia Giambastiani.
Participating in the STRAW Program. Photo by Leia Giambastiani.

With the 2013-2014 restoration season underway, Point Blue Conservation Science (Point Blue) marks over two decades of engaging Bay Area youth in hands-on habitat restoration through the STRAW (Students and Teachers Restoring A Watershed) Program. This year will see over 50 restoration projects take place in North Bay counties.

Point Blue’s STRAW Program brings together students, teachers, scientists, ranchers and other members of the community in Marin, Sonoma, Solano, Alameda and Napa Counties to work on stream and wetland restoration projects. Since its inception, the STRAW Program has engaged 33,000 Bay Area students and 400 teachers in 450 stream and wetland restoration projects, resulting in over 30 miles of restored habitat.

“At a time when pollution, habitat loss and climate extremes threaten our streams and wetlands, Bay Area students and teachers are coming together through STRAW’s innovative Program to successfully address these challenges,” said Ellie Cohen, Executive Director, Point Blue Conservation Science.  “By involving young people in the process, we are inspiring the next generation to protect and conserve the outdoors.  Today’s STRAW participants will be tomorrow’s community leaders, scientists, and advocates working for nature-based solutions to climate change.”

Meaningful Education

As part of the STRAW Program, students in grades K-12 participate in and assess the benefits of restoration projects on human communities, birds, bugs, fish and the soil.  During their work in the field, students team up with experts to learn the basic scientific skills that directly link to their in-school science curriculum.

“The STRAW Program has opened a world of discovery for my students,” said Michelle Stern, Biology Teacher at San Rafael High School and a STRAW participant.  “Through STRAW, their study of biology leaps from the pages of their textbooks to real world experience and hands-on scientific experiences.”  

“My students are inspired by the experience, more engaged in their work, and are asking insightful questions about what they can do to protect the health and well-being of our planet,” continued Michelle Stern.

STRAW began in 1992 in the 4th grade classroom of Laurette Rogers (now Point Blue’s STRAW Program Director), when students took on a restoration project at Stemple Creek, in Sonoma and Marin Counties.  Working with ranchers and scientists, they planted native willows and restored the habitat for the endangered California Freshwater Shrimp. Since then, the STRAW Program has grown exponentially, engaging 3,500 students about 50 restorations each year.

Preparing for the Future

Point Blue’s STRAW Program proactively addresses the negative impacts of climate change, habitat loss and degradation on streams and wetlands and our communities in the Bay Area.  Streams and wetlands – part of the Bay Area’s vital watersheds – are critical for many wildlife species as well as for storing, filtering and gradually releasing fresh water, for slowing flood waters and for reducing flood impacts on nature and human infrastructure. Restoring these habitats provides more resilience in the face of increasing sea levels, drought, storms, and flooding.  

STRAW’s restorations are designed to be “climate-smart.” They take into account projected increases in drought and flooding, as well as changes in wildlife migration patterns.  These climate-smart restorations are designed to withstand a variety of climate conditions while providing food and shelter for animals when they need it. 

Students participating in STRAW learn about and restore native vegetation on creek banks and in wetland transition areas (where tidal marsh meets upland habitat), stabilizing eroding banks, filtering pollution, slowing down floodwaters, and creating lasting wildlife habitat.  The STRAW participants learn that they can make a positive difference in the face of climate change. 

For more information on the STRAW Program, visit Point Blue at www.pointblue.org.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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