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Collaborating 4th-grade classes from Sunset Ranch Elementary in Rocklin and Robert Down Elementary in Pacific Grove have partnered in a $5,000 grant project called “Our Watershed from the Mountains to the Sea.

Two 4th-grade teachers, Rebecca Cihak and Karen Levy, both local Association activists, wanted to find a way to collaborate. The problem was that one taught near Sacramento and the other taught near Monterey Bay. The solution was an Institute for Teaching (IFT) grant that brought students at both schools together for project-based learning. While collecting data and engaging in their field and lab experiences, students confront, discuss and problem solve real-life ecological challenges.

The aim of the student- centered social studies and environmental education program is to connect students, parents, and our communities in a shared interest of studying the history and environmental impact of human activities around our watershed from the mountains to the sea. By providing opportunities for joint field research and excursions (including one to the Monterey Bay Aquarium), students are inspired to lead others toward becoming better stewards of our state’s greatest natural resource.


A recent class excursion began at the Nature Center of the William B. Pond Recreation Area, American River Parkway near Carmichael. Thirty-one Rocklin students spent about an hour learning from two naturalists from the Effie Yeaw Nature Center. Their slogan, “Bringing people to nature… and nature to people” could not have been more apt.

Following some classroom-style instruction, the students then hiked a short distance to a pond area of the American River. They spent nearly an hour working with their teacher, the naturalists and with a team of seven parent volunteers learning about pond ecosystems. Following this activity, they again hiked a short distance to a different part of the river to collect data and test water samples to share with their partner school.

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Applications for Strength-Based Grants open on January 1st. The deadline to apply for a 2018-19 IFT Grant is April 30, 2018.