The Watershed Warriors Initiative is a student-led organization at T.C. Williams High School that works with ACPS fifth graders to promote awareness and enthusiasm for the environment and STEM through hands-on STEM lessons. In the last three years, we have engaged over 280 fifth graders from ACPS elementary schools, including Jefferson-Houston, Cora Kelly, Lyles-Crouch, and Maury.
We visit each school four times during the year. The first two lessons focus on teaching fifth-grade science SOL standards through hands-on environmentally focused activities. During the third lesson, students either plant a wetland garden at their school that they care for over the spring or learn about the important factors of stream health.
In June, students participate in a field trip to an Alexandria wetland where they use their wetland plants to restore a wetland, assess the water quality of the local waterway, participate in trash pickups around the park, and go on nature walks and observe the local environment. The Watershed Warriors Initiative partners with the National Parks Service and the Four Mile Run Conservatory to host and plan the field trips.
Expand environmental awareness
Our lessons and connect directly to local and global environmental problems such as the pollution of our watersheds and the loss of native wetlands. We feel it is important to teach younger generations about the harm that has been inflicted on our environment and the direct positive impacts they can have by working to solve the problem in a local setting.
Increase interest in STEM
We emphasize hands-on learning and scientific investigations to keep students engaged in the material. We work with 5th-grade students because they are about to make the transition to middle school, where they will have more freedom in their class choices. Exposure to hands-on STEM activities and the scientific method can give them the confidence to take more STEM classes.
Improve STEM performance in the classroom and on standardized tests
Our lessons incorporate the 5th grade Virginia Science Standards of Learning (SOLs), thus giving the students a chance to review the topics and apply them to real world situations.