Pilot Program Focuses on Project WET's "Hometown" of Bozeman

Cover of the Water Conservation and Storm Water Management guide for educatorsCover of the Water Conservation and Storm Water Management guide for educators A new pilot program bringing the Project WET Foundation together with the Montana Watercourse and the City of Bozeman is underway in several classrooms in Project WET's "hometown" of Bozeman. The Water Conservation and Storm Water Management education program offers interactive science activities that help teachers educate kids about Bozeman’s watershed and how individual actions can impact the area’s water.

“This pilot project advances the City’s education and outreach goals for our water conservation and stormwater programs," said Lain Leoniak, the City of Bozeman's Water Conservation Specialist. "We were happy to have the opportunity to partner with Project WET to create customized lesson plans for the Bozeman area to connect young people to their watershed, to help them understand how special it is as the headwaters of the Missouri River and the cornerstone for the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and to learn simple actions they can take to protect it. ”

The program’s five lessons offer some of the basics of water literacy while also delving into more advanced topics, all using Project WET’s interactive education methods:

Students at a Bozeman elementary school take their supplies outside for Sum of the PartsStudents at a Bozeman elementary school take their supplies outside for Sum of the Parts

In “Seeing Bozeman’s Watershed,” students learn what a watershed is and then use maps to identify the key features of Bozeman’s Gallatin River and Bozeman Municipal watersheds. “A Year in the Gallatin River Watershed” teaches students how water flows in different seasons and at different elevations through a whole-body exercise as well as mapping and graphing work. The “Storm Water Hike” activity introduces the idea of city watersheds and explores the Bozeman Storm Water Distribution System by having students investigate water flow on their own school grounds. In “Sum of the Parts,” students demonstrate how storm water runoff can eventually carry pollution into Bozeman’s waterways. “Bozeman Home Water Audit” zeroes in on home water use with and without the use of water conservation practices to encourage students to take action to conserve Bozeman’s water.

At a training workshop last month, staff from the Montana Watercourse and the Project WET Foundation trained five classroom teachers from around Bozeman to use the program with their upper elementary and middle school students. Students were given assessments to gauge their knowledge about water before the start of the program and will also be tested at the conclusion to determine how much students learned. In addition, the City of Bozeman is looking at aggregate water use before and after the program among pilot test families to assess the impact of the program on water use.

Students simulate a rain event's effect on water qualityStudents simulate a rain event's effect on water quality Recently, a 5th grade class hosted staff from Project WET and the City of Bozeman to observe one of the activities in action. Students used the "Sum of the Parts" activity to simulate the way trash and other pollutants left on the ground could move from one park in Bozeman to another and eventually into the East Gallatin River, a popular recreation area for local residents. At the conclusion of the activity, students brainstormed best management practices that they could adopt--such as picking up after their pet, throwing trash into proper receptacles and recycling--to protect Bozeman's precious waterways.

“We are fortunate to have such an inspiring, effective, and professional non-profit invested in making their home town community better," said Kyle Mehrens, the Stormwater Program Coordinator for the City of Bozeman. "The future of Bozeman’s water resources are growing brighter by the day and we look forward to continuing our partnership with Project WET to ensure our young citizens continue to lead the charge."

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