The Watershed Project involved students, teachers, administrators, staff and the community of Pescadero from 1991 to 1997. After all these years, the following interviews were conducted recently by Steve Maskel, who was director of the program and is now retired from science teaching. The role of each interviewee in the project is listed below, followed by their present status in parentheses.
“I remember the hands-on nature of the Watershed Project. It was action-oriented and the kids saw it as significant work. I imagine that it has had a lasting effect on students’ love of nature and their understanding of the environment.”
– Don Berry, Principal, Pescadero High School (Retired)
“I really enjoyed setting up the fish trap in the creek. I can even see the trap [in my mind’s eye] today many years later, and I recall the routine maintenance that kept the trap functioning and the modifications Dustin Symanski and I made to its design. We got to identify all the native fish in the creek (such as steelhead, coho salmon, prickly sculpin, Pacific lamprey, California roach, and three-spine sticklebacks). I especially liked the opportunity to travel to Siberia after a group of Russian scientists visited our high school to observe the Watershed Project.”
– Peter Panofsky, Student (Watershed Keeper, San Francisco Water Department)
“I remember the kids’ excitement. We all saw the program grow rapidly. It seemed that we had a tiger by the tail. I advised a group of students to prepare a documentary of the project. Students were initially passive but warmed to the idea and made major contributions in the end. The whole project represented real project-based learning involving all students in the high school. We witnessed the fish die-off in the estuary lagoon, the ongoing story of the fish trap, and the revelation that Coho salmon were present in the creek. I also noticed that some of the students that struggled in the classroom exceled in field studies.” – Logan Payne, School Board Member (Artist)
“The project allowed many different venues for student involvement. Many students saw the work as important for them, the school, and the community. One special education student had struggled in school for many years. He got interested in a detailed streambed analysis and its connection to steelhead spawning. That paper ultimately earned a top award at the San Mateo County Science Fair. The project totally changed his life.” – Jack Wallace, School Psychologist (Retired)
“I remember the good times. We had the responsibility to learn the wildlife in our own backyard. Often we had to study the creek and record the number of young steelhead in the trap.”
– Chris Klingele, Student (Tree Service Ower)
“We began to notice the natural environment in our area. During our many field experiences we observed aquatic insects, native plants, birds and especially local fish. Our participation led to increased awareness of the Pescadero watershed and a desire for its preservation. The project affects me even now as an elementary school teacher and I’m convinced it was way ahead of its time.“
– Vienna Klingele, Student (Elementary School Teacher)
Steve Maskel is a retired science teacher who directed a celebrated Watershed Project at Pescadero High School from 1990-1997. This is the third entry in a series of blogs he is writing for Field Notes.
September 22, 2023
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