SUISUN CITY — Nearly 1,300 middle school students will explore one of the last intact wetlands in the Bay Area as part of the 2015 Suisun Marsh Watershed Program.
About half of the sixth- and seventh-graders who are participating have already experienced the daylong field trip to the Solano Land Trust’s Rush Ranch – with another 600 students scheduled to participate next month.
A major goal of the program is for as many students as possible to participate, said program Coordinator Marianne Butler, education program manager for the Solano Resource Conservation District.
The free program includes in-class lessons about marsh and watershed ecology, leading up to the field trip to explore part of the largest contiguous brackish tidal marshes remaining on the West Coast, according to a district press release. Students hike through the wetlands and study the soil, water and plants there.
In the day’s final activity, participants hike to Overlook Hill and write poems about their experience, which their teachers submit to the River of Words International art and poetry contest. Back in their classrooms, students complete additional lessons covering the problems and solutions to ocean debris and water conservation.
The program’s five in-class lessons instruct students about the marsh’s ecosystem and its role in the larger watershed habitat. Program educators tie the ecology and health of the marsh to the student’s own lives, building understanding of the interconnection of all life in a watershed, according to the district release.
The Rush Ranch open space is a working cattle ranch, which serves as a living laboratory for participants. Students see wildlife coexisting with domestic animals in a well-managed environment, on a 1,050-acre property that represents more than 10 percent of the remaining wetland area in California, according to the district.
The eight-year-old program was developed by the Solano and Suisun resource conservation districts and is funded by the Solano County Water Agency, along with a State Parks Habitat Conservation Fund grant, which is in its final of four program years.
The funding is augmented by a two-year grant from the Benicia Sustainability Commission, and a small amount of funding from a CalRecycle Grant to Solano County. Additional funding support for busing is provided by the Fairfield Suisun Sewer District.
When completed, more than 10,000 children will have taken field trips to explore county open space in a hands-on program that aligns with state standards and addresses local concerns, the district said.
Reach Kevin W. Green at 427-6974 or kgreen@dailyrepublic.