by Kirk Klancke
President, Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited
The Grand County Water Information Network (GCWIN) is a member funded nonprofit that recently finished up its fall series of watershed education programs, and the board of directors would like to take this opportunity to thank Kayli Foulk and Mary Price, GCWIN’s director and lead field technician, respectively, and the many individuals and agencies involved in making GCWIN’s education programs a success. In the nine years that GCWIN has been conducting water education programs we have worked with over 4,000 students, 2,500 parents, educators, and volunteers, and spent over $50,000 on program activities! For those unfamiliar with GCWIN or who have a student in one of the grades mentioned below, please read on to learn more about this unique Grand County water-focused education programming or better yet ask your child about his or her experience!
GCWIN starts its water education programs at the preschool level with a focus on igniting passion for learning in children. During this 5 week program, these ‘Tiny Trouts’ learn how water is transported from source to tap, discover some of water’s unique properties, and go on a field trip where they collect bugs, go fishing, and learn how they can keep our rivers and streams clean.
The next demographic of GCWIN’s education is second graders from both East and West Grand School Districts. By working through eight stations during a field trip to Point Park, students are introduced to the world of nature that is supported by clean water and conservation.
Students in fifth grade from East and West Grand participate in a field trip to Monarch Lake. Here they begin to understand the science behind what constitutes a healthy aquatic environment. Point Park and the Monarch Lake programs were historically sponsored by the Forest Service for over 30 years, and are now coordinated by GCWIN.
The Monarch Lake field trip marks the start of GCWIN’s so-called “Watershed Week” — a program that actually spans the month of September and involves grades from elementary to high school. Watershed Week could not be the success that it is without the full support of both East and West Grand School Districts.
In West Grand, Watershed Week treats its sixth grade students to a field trip to Pumphouse Recreation Area to learn more about their watershed and develop an appreciation for the readily available water from our taps. Seventh grade students are taken to the Colorado River to learn about macroinvertebrates, fish biology, and riparian zones, and wrap up the day with a tour of the Williams Fork Dam from Denver Water. Finally, eighth grade students get a field trip to the Water Treatment plant in Kremmling to learn where their water comes from, and finish the day studying water chemistry and stream discharge on the Blue River.
In East Grand, GCWIN takes sixth graders on a field trip to Grand Lake to learn about water clarity, the Adams Tunnel to learn about water diversions, and finishes the day with a stop at Rocky Mountain National Park. The seventh grade students go to the Fraser Valley where they tour the Headwaters River Journey, obtain fish counts by electrofishing with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and visit a pristine headwaters stream on Berthoud Pass.
Watershed “Week” concludes with eighth grade students taking a field trip to learn about water chemistry on the Fraser River and touring the Granby Sanitation Plant. New in 2019, the eighth-grade field trip also included a Storm Drain Stencil project to educate the students as well as remind citizens about non-point source pollution and how it enters our storm drains, which empty into the Fraser River. Check out their messaging the next time you’re in Granby!
At the High School level, GCWIN works with the East Grand ninth graders on a week of classroom education that culminates with a field trip on the Fraser River to learn about bugs, water chemistry and river flows. Based on the data collected, students analyze it to determine the health of the Fraser River. This GCWIN program is called Bug Week.
The GCWIN board would also like to express its gratitude to our donors, including the Grand Foundation whose grant made the storm drain stencil project possible; Three Lakes Watershed Association, which funded the purchase of 32 waders so that each child can have the opportunity to wade in the river; Trout Unlimited, whose funds were essential for buses to convey students to field sites and general program supplies, and the Headwaters Land Trust, which covered admission for all Grand County seventh graders to the Headwaters River Journey Museum.
If you check out our website at www. gcwin.org, you’ll see that GCWIN does many things to help the rivers, streams and lakes in Grand County. But GCWIN staff spend months preparing field trips that satisfy Colorado curriculum standards to help educators meet curriculum goals in a real-world, hands-on classroom, and we think you’ll agree: nothing we do has a greater impact on the future of our waterways than our water education programs.
Our partners, members, donors, and volunteers invest considerable resources, all to provide Grand County kids with the knowledge they will need to be good stewards of our rivers, streams and lakes. GCWIN would like to thank every bus driver, sponsor, volunteer, member, parent, and educator that has allowed them to give the children growing up in the headwaters of the Colorado River the solid background that they will need to become the future stewards of Grand County’s waterways.
by Kirk Klancke