Exploring Local and Global Environments

Past, Present, and Future!

The Project- Fourth graders in Mrs. Franklin's class are engaged in a year-long study of local and global environments with a focus on watersheds. By comparing and contrasting their local watershed with part of the largest watershed in the world -the Amazon- students will gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of watershed systems, how people have interacted and depended on them in the past, the environmental challenges that watersheds currently face such as changes in climate, and how people can promote and maintain healthy watersheds. Explorations for this project include field trips to different parts of our local watersheds, gathering base-line data from a creek that runs alongside the school campus, taking water quality samples, studying the negative effects of plastic trash on watersheds, and looking at fourth grade history through the lens of watersheds (how the California Native Americans interacted within their local watersheds, how the miners during the Gold Rush impacted watersheds, etc.), Throughout these activities, students will also be studying about the Amazon watershed and the Peruvian rainforest to understand their interconnected relationships to these global systems.

Within this overarching theme, our various inquiries have included the following driving questions:

  • How can we use our studies about local and global watersheds to promote environmental stewardship?
  • How can we raise funds to support the Adopt-a-School program to support schools in the Peruvian Amazon?
  • What baseline data can we collect about our local creek that will help us create a restoration plan?
  • What kinds of trash are found around our local creek? Why is that a problem and what can be done to reduce trash in the watershed?
  • What do we need to know about steelhead trout to support their success in their watershed? Why does it matter?
  • Why is the Amazon watershed important to us?

Check back in periodically for updates on our studies!

Exploring Local Watersheds- Tolay Regional Park, Bouverie Preserve, and Thompson Creek, Fall 2016

Yagua People

10/16- Comparing and Contrasting the Yagua Indigenous People of the Amazon to California Native Peoples

11/16- Service Learning- Raising money to support the CONAPAC Adopt-a School program. Funds raised help provide school supplies to schools in the Peruvian Amazon. Two bake sales were held, and notecards depicting local animals and animals from the Amazon were made and sold by the students.

Students also made informational slideshows about the local and Amazon animals depicted on the notecards they made and sold.

Local and Amazon Animals - John Fannin
Local and Amazon Animals - Maceo Martinez
Local and Amazon Animals - Amaya Webster
Local and Amazon Animals - Francia Choto
Local and Amazon Animals - Samuel Martin
Local and Amazon Animals - Elise
Local and Amazon Animals - Lucas Donohue
Local and Amazon Animals - Weston Moore
Local and Amazon Animals - Joshelin Lopez
Local and Amazon Animals - Thomas Anderson
Local and Amazon Animals - Gwendolyn Severson
Local and Amazon Animals - James Dole
Local and Amazon Animals - Isadore Noble
Local and Amazon Animals - Weston Moore
Local and Amazon Animals - Ariana Villanueva Gonzalez
Local and Amazon Animals - Mateo Carpenter
Local and Amazon Animals - Madison Eveland
Local and Amazon Animals - Amaya Webster
Local and Amazon Animals - Paige Habkirk
Local and Amazon Animals - Madison Eveland
Local and Amazon Animals - August Cuneo
Local and Amazon Animals - Jonah Fox
Local and Amazon Animals - Scarlett Sanders
Local and Amazon Animals - Lana Kozlowski
Local and Amazon Animals - Iris Tomatzin Mora

2/1/17- We raised $453.36 for the Adopt-a-School Program!!!

The check's in the mail!

And for raising the most money, the students won a giant blow dart gun from the Amazon Workshops organization!

Learning about the Amazon Watershed

12/17/16- Students skyped with Marie Trone, a scientist who studies Amazon river dolphins. Students learned about the internal and external structures of the dolphins and how they help the animals survive in their environment. Comparisons were also made with ocean dolphins. Dr. Trone shared what life is like out in the field when studying the dolphins and she shared some of the current challenges that the river dolphins face. When asked what fourth graders could do to help the river dolphins, Dr. Trone advised the students to do all they can to conserve energy and to encourage others to do the same.

3rd Visit to Thompson Creek to look for evidence of erosion after recent rain storms 1/13/17

Local/Global Comparison-Erosion in the Peruvian Amazon

Erosion in the Peruvian Amazon

2/17A trip to the David Yearsley River Heritage Center to learn about the Petaluma Watershed

Students made model watersheds and conducted water quality tests of the Petaluma River.

3/15/17 Gathering Baseline Data with Instructors from STRAW (Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed)

What plants are growing along our section of Thompson Creek? What is the water quality of the creek? What kind of soil is near the creek? What might we do in the future to restore this environment?

Students observed three different types of plants gathered from the creek: English ivy, periwinkle, and bamboo. They looked at the structures of the plants and learned that these plants are not ideal for promoting a healthy creek. They also examined 3 different types of soil and conducted water infiltration experiments to see how each soil type absorbed water. This information will be helpful for determining what plants to choose to plant for future restoration work. For the third exploration, the students conducted water quality tests such as testing for pH.

3/17/17- Thompson Creek Clean-Up!

Armed with trash grabbers, both fourth grade classes picked up a variety of trash en route to and at Thompson Creek.

Later, the students conducted an analysis of the trash creating line plots and even designing junk art sculptures using the trash collected.

Thompson Creek Trash Analysis - Paige Habkirk
Thompson Creek Trash Analysis - James Dole
Thompson Creek Trash Analysis - Mateo Carpenter
Thompson Creek Trash Analysis - Joshelin Lopez
Thompson Creek Trash Analysis - Maceo Martinez
Thompson Creek Trash Analysis - Elise Matley
Thompson Creek Trash Analysis - August Cuneo
Thompson Creek Trash Analysis - Samuel Martin
Thompson Creek Trash Analysis - Scarlett Sanders
Thompson Creek Trash Analysis - Amaya Webster
Thompson Creek Trash Analysis - Gwendolyn Severson
Thompson Creek Trash Analysis - Francia Choto

3/17-Why are there virtually no rocks in the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest?

The students constructed possible explanations. Click on the image below to see what they thought.

Barn Swallow Challenge

3/29/17-Local/Global Connections- Barn Swallows and a Problem to Solve

Check out the slideshow to see how students will use engineering to connect our local environment with the Amazon rainforest via barn swallows! See student solutions below:

Barn Swallow Challenge Solution - Francia Choto
Barn Swallow Challenge Solution - Gwendolyn Severson
Barn Swallow Challenge Solution - James Dole
Barn Swallow Challenge Solution - Rocco Scaccalosi
Barn Swallow Challenge Solution - Weston Moore
Barn Swallow Challenge Solution - Jonah Fox
Barn Swallow Challenge Solution - Elise Matley
Barn Swallow Challenge Solution - Samuel Martin
Barn Swallow Challenge Solution - Thomas Anderson
Barn Swallow Challenge Solution - August Cuneo
Barn Swallow Challenge Solution - Iris Tomatzin Mora
Barn Swallow Challenge Solution - Joshelin Lopez
Barn Swallow Challenge Solution - John Fannin
Barn Swallow Challenge Solution - Ariana Villanueva Gonzalez
Barn Swallow Challenge Solution - Madison Eveland
Barn Swallow Challenge Solution - Amaya Webster
Barn Swallow Challenge Solution - Maceo Martinez
Barn Swallow Challenge Solution - Scarlett Sanders
Barn Swallow Challenge Solution - Isadore Noble
Barn Swallow Challenge Solution - Lana Kozlowski
Barn Swallow Challenge Solution - Mateo Carpenter

3/31- Geology Studies at Helen Putnam Regional Park

Students hiked and learned more about the rock cycle and local geology. Thank you Discovery Center docents!

Amazon Bird Identification and Impact of Coffee.pptx

Amazon Birds and Coffee- What impact might a cup of coffee have on birds that migrate to and from the Amazon rain forest?

4/5/17- How do Steelhead Trout Interact in a Watershed?

The steelhead trout eggs arrived! The students observed the eggs up close before they were placed in the fish tank. The eggs have some special requirements: water that is 55 degrees and darkness. Over the next few weeks, students will make connections to their watershed studies as they make observations of the eggs and fry when they hatch. When the fry are ready, they will be released into the Russian River watershed.

Example Science Note Book Entries

The fry were released at the Warm Springs Fish Hatchery on May 23, 2017!

Gold Mining in the Amazon

Comparing and Contrasting the California Gold Rush to Modern Day Gold Mining in the Amazon

Models for a Healthy Creek

5/30/17 - Students worked again with STRAW teacher, Gina Grazziano, using the baseline data they collected in March to design models for a healthy creek. Place-based education at its best using natural materials from the schoolyard!

We wrapped up our studies by reflecting on how activities done over the year addressed the past, present, and future of local and global environments.

Standards addressed this unit of study:

Next Generation Science Standards Disciplinary Core Ideas:

LS1.A: Structure and Function

ESS1.C: The History of Planet Earth

ESS2.A: Earth Materials and Systems

ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems

Crosscutting Concepts:

  1. Patterns
  2. Cause and effect
  3. Systems and systems models
  4. Structure and function
  5. Stability and change

Science and Engineering Practices:

  1. Asking questions and defining problems
  2. Developing and using models
  3. Analyzing and interpreting data
  4. Using mathematics and computational thinking
  5. Constructing explanations and designing solutions
  6. Engaging in argument from evidence
  7. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

English Language Arts


Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.


Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.


Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.


Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words or phrases in a text relevant to a grade 4 topic or subject area.


Describe the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in a text or part of a text.


Compare and contrast a firsthand and secondhand account of the same event or topic; describe the differences in focus and the information provided.


By the end of year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, in the grades 4-5 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.


Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1-3 above.)


With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, and editing. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of Language standards 1-3 up to and including grade 4 here.)


With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of one page in a single sitting.


Conduct short research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.


Recall relevant information from experiences or gather relevant information from print and digital sources; take notes and categorize information, and provide a list of sources.


Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.


Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 4 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.


Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material; explicitly draw on that preparation and other information known about the topic to explore ideas under discussion.


Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions and carry out assigned roles.


Pose and respond to specific questions to clarify or follow up on information, and make comments that contribute to the discussion and link to the remarks of others.


Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience in an organized manner, using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace.


Add audio recordings and visual displays to presentations when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or themes.