Youth Programs




Whatcom Explorer - Mobile Watershed

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The Whatcom Explorer: Mobile Watershed is a hands-on educational tool that allows participants to connect with their local watershed and examine the natural movement of streams and rivers. The Whatcom Explorer is a place-based interactive watershed model with focus on watershed processes and function, land-uses with Best Management Practices (BMPs), and in conjunction with human and salmonid coexistence.  Participants explore how streams behave under natural conditions and what happens when those conditions change.

farm circle 2016The trailer contains a sturdy fiberglass, removable lid that is a topographic map of Whatcom county including Mt Baker, the Nooksack watershed and coastal environments.  This was created to scale by Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining; a process of using computers to control machine tools, like routers and Digital Elevation Model (DEM) files for geographic and topographic accuracy. 

fishThe trailer sand-table is a large flat “land area“ composed of plastic grit.   Our modeling media is made of recycled, ground melamine plastic.  It has a density of 1.6, about 60% the density of quartz sand, which means it demonstrates river processes with impressive accuracy on compressed scales of space and time. The media is lightweight and easy to transport.  It won’t damage pumps, and it is much easier to clean than sand and other quartz materials. Water is then pumped through the trailer to create two “streams” that moves along the length of the trailer to a drain that cycles back into a reservoir to be pumped back into the system.

Contact Aneka Sweeney for more information and opportunities on how to bring the Whatcom Explorer to your school or event. or (360) 526-2381 x103

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Funded in part by Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, ALEA Volunteer Cooperative Grant Program



Interested in having the Whatcom Conservation District get involved with your school? Contact Aneka Sweeney at (360) 526-2381 x103 or

School Involvement

Whatcom Conservation District staff members work with different school groups to involve them in stream restoration projects and watershed education opportunities. A few examples include:

    • Columbia Elementary- In April 2015, District staff joined 41 students from Mrs. Wiederhold and Mrs. Sampson 5th grade classes to improve habitat, beautify their playground and “help mother earth”, according to one of the excited students.  This group of 10 and 11 year olds along with the Columbia Parent Association has dedicated a portion of their school yard for wildlife habitat.
      The Whatcom Conservation District was thrilled to provide expertise and 85 native plants to enhance the soil health, clean surface storm water and provide food and shelter for native wildlife. An afternoon classroom lesson had the students consider what animals need to survive, what types of animals might want use their garden, what plants provide the best habitat during all times of the year, and what would grow best in the very sunny area of the playground. The following week, with the garden plan in place, students arrived enthusiastic to make a difference and leave a legacy at their school. Students rotated through three stations of; interpretive sign making, native plant and wildlife games and getting their hands dirty as each student was able to plant at least 2 species in the ground. The students were proud of their efforts and hope their legacy will live on at Columbia Elementary as a place where urban schoolyards can be a safe place for kids and wildlife.


    • Happy Valley Elementary – In March 2004, District staff presented the interactive watershed model to a kindergarten class of 24 students. After talking about non-point pollution and how peoples' actions on the land may affect water quality, staff led the students and 6 adult volunteers on a walk to a local stream. During the walk we noted the locations and functions of storm drains and talked about where those storm drains empty directly into streams. The students and volunteers were divided into small groups to plant native shrubs along Taylor Creek (tributary to Connelly Creek draining to salmon bearing Padden Creek) to compliment the water quality and salmon education the students had received the previous week. The stream and the constructed wetlands area where we planted were on Western Washington University property.

      Happy Valley Classroom


      Happy Valley Planting

      Students in this kindergarten class gather around the watershed model to learn about environmental effects of non-point pollution.   Students and parent volunteers in this kindergarten class get ready to plant native shrubs along Taylor Creek in Bellingham.


    • Fisher Elementary – In April 2002, two second grade classes from Fisher Elementary in Lynden got their hands dirty helping to plant native vegetation along Fishtrap Creek. District staff first visited Cathy Dexter’s and Leslie Price’s classes to talk about watersheds, stream restoration, and salmon biology and habitat needs. Following the classroom visit, the students got some hands-on experience planting trees and exploring the riparian habitat of the creek just beyond the borders of their school property.
      Dexter Class Planting   Dexter Class Planting 2
      Students from Cathy Dexter’s second grade Fisher Elementary class work together planting native vegetation along Fishtrap Creek in Lynden.


  • Blaine High School – In April 2002, Whatcom Conservation District employees coordinated a group of Blaine High School students to participate in a riparian restoration planting on a farm in the Drayton Harbor watershed.
    Blaine HS Planting   Blaine HS Planting 2
    No Name Creek
This page was last modified on 04/10/20 - 16:09