Local Students #getSWAMPed: 4 Schools, 4 Watersheds, and 500+ Students Later!

Local Students #getSWAMPed: 4 Schools in 4 Watersheds

by Angelica Howard and Leslie Revel, SWAMP AmeriCorps Members

Above: SWAMP AmeriCorps Members Angelica Howard (left) and Leslie Revel (right). 

As 2017 AmeriCorps Members and SWAMP (Strategic Watershed Awareness & Monitoring Program) educators, we fully support Mobile Baykeeper’s work for clean water, clean air, and healthy communities.  SWAMP is an education action program that teaches citizens the importance of connections within watersheds while also providing tools to monitor the health of waterways and solve pollution problems. At the beginning of the fall semester, we dove head first into the SWAMP curriculum facilitating ways to create, enhance, and engage students and citizens across the Mobile Bay Watershed.  

We, “The SWAMP Ladies”, a title coined by our fellow AmeriCorps Team Members and adopted by us to embrace, have already made a significant impact these first few months and look forward to seeing our continued success in 2018. Along the way, we have recruited new and excited young individuals interested in becoming certified water quality monitors in their local watersheds.

We have been busy working towards our SWAMP goals of giving 40 SWAMP presentations resulting in 50 trained water quality monitors, 45 of those being active monitors taking 64 samples of local waterways in Mobile and Baldwin Counties.

Daily motivation: Angelica noting the SWAMP performance measures in the "SWAMP Ladies" Office. 

Daily motivation: Angelica noting the SWAMP performance measures in the "SWAMP Ladies" Office. 

Over the past few months, we’ve been traveling all over Mobile and Baldwin Counties, presenting SWAMP to a multitude of people, from 2nd graders at Rockwell Elementary all the way up to adults from Hollinger's Island Baptist Church. 

Program Director Cade Kistler trains adults at Hollinger's Island Baptist Church to be certified water quality monitors through Alabama Water Watch. 

Program Director Cade Kistler trains adults at Hollinger's Island Baptist Church to be certified water quality monitors through Alabama Water Watch. 

Thanks to funding from AM/NS Calvert, NOAA B-WET, and the EPA Environmental Education Program, we have the support to bring our full SWAMP program to four local high schools across four different watersheds throughout Coastal Alabama:

1) LeFlore High School in Mobile County (Three Mile Creek Watershed)

2) Citronelle High School in North Mobile County (Cedar Creek Watershed)

3) Alma Bryant High School in South Mobile County (Bayou La Batre Watershed)

4) Fairhope High School in Baldwin County (Weeks Bay Watershed)

SWAMP involves a three-part process:

1. Education

Local students from Alma Bryant High School learn about watersheds through the water table demonstration. 

Local students from Alma Bryant High School learn about watersheds through the water table demonstration. 

We start with our SWAMP educational presentation, and garner interest of students to become certified water quality monitors by teaching them about the Mobile Bay Watershed, their local watershed, and why they are important. The presentation covers watershed basics, threats to water quality, the importance of clean water to our environment, economy, and quality of life, and how concerned citizens can safeguard our precious water resources.

2. Monitoring

Program Director Cade Kistler takes a selfie with students from Fairhope High School at Weeks Bay Reserve during a water quality monitoring training. 

Program Director Cade Kistler takes a selfie with students from Fairhope High School at Weeks Bay Reserve during a water quality monitoring training. 

Following the presentation, interested students then get trained on Alabama Water Watch monitoring procedures, learning about many different types of water quality parameters, such as pH, alkalinity, hardness, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity. We also test for the presence of optical brighteners and Enterococci bacteria, positive results indicating the possible incidence of sewage in the waterway.

3) Solutions

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We then take the students out in the field once a month to test water quality in their local communities, and we discuss the test results. If we do find concerning results, we will be able to work together to find a possible solution. Once students begin monitoring on their own, they can submit pollution concerns or other water quality directly to Mobile Baykeeper program staff through the Water Rangers web tool.  

We also travel to local schools, to deliver a SWAP (Strategic Watershed Awareness Program) presentation, an abridged version of SWAMP that only includes the educational presentation. So far, we’ve been to Rockwell Elementary School in Spanish Fort, Lott Middle School in Citronelle, and Daphne High School. The students all across the bay have been extremely enthusiastic and engaged in the SWAMP program.  It is an informative and captivating presentation that covers a multitude of topics ranging from the duties of Mobile Baykeeper, the human impact on the environment, prevention, and plans of action.  

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Since September, we’ve delivered the presentation to almost 500 students, trained 72 students to become certified water quality monitors, and so far have taken 13 water quality samples with trained students. “The SWAMP Ladies”, are thrilled to be a part of the mission at Mobile Baykeeper and hope to become a vital resource for Mobile & Baldwin Counties as the program continues to grow in the future.

We are thoroughly enjoying spreading the love of our waterways to local students and community members and look forward to what lies ahead in 2018. If you would like your school or organization to #getSWAMPed please contact our Site Supervisor, Jamie Bullock at jbullock@mobilebaykeeper.org or call (251) 433-4229. We look forward to bringing SWAMP to you!

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