RiverXchange® is a program of Ciudad Soil & Water Conservation District.
Since 2007, our goal has always been to provide an exciting way for upper elementary teachers to explore major water resources topics over many months as part of the normal curriculum — instead of confining water to a single study unit. In fact, we think water makes a terrific theme to teach just about any subject at any grade level! RiverXchange® continues to be provided free of charge to local participants. This is possible due to New Mexico-based funding and major support from numerous in-kind sponsors in New Mexico. The program is typically completed within a 3-4 month time period between October- April. The teacher workshop is held in late September. Action Projects are acknowledged in April.
The Rio Grande as a Focal Point
The Rio Grande is used as the curriculum focal point because it is a logical (and fun) teaching tool to address nearly all water resources concepts: water cycle, watershed, surface water/groundwater connections, drinking water, wastewater, non-point source pollution, municipal and commercial uses, food webs, etc. A river is something students can easily relate to and appreciate, whereas a watershed being a land area is a more difficult concept for students to understand. The watershed is a unifying concept for understanding all water resource issues, and the river is just the tangible evidence of what is going on in the watershed. By starting with the Rio Grande and building on what they already know about the water cycle, students conclude that their actions in the watershed impact the Rio Grande and that there are actions they can take to protect the river. This builds a foundation of knowledge for future actions that can support watershed health as students move up through the grades.
We think all community members should understand the concept of watersheds, as the health of a local watershed directly impacts the quality of life in a community — and vice versa. Thus, poor planning and development can lead to dangerous levels of non-point source pollution in the river or ground, over-pumping of a river can threaten species, and over-pumping of an aquifer can lead to land subsidence. The result is a declining quality of life for the entire community (human and non-human). Our goal is to educate the public about life in a watershed, so that individually and collectively people will make choices that will improve the quality of life for everyone and everything that depends on the local river.
Throughout RiverXchange® students engage with guest speakers (local water resource experts and educators) to learn about the Rio Grande as an invaluable resource, participate in a conservation field trip to the Rio Grande, and complete an action project to develop necessary skills in stewardship practices. By learning and participating in local efforts to protect the Rio Grande students gain new experiences, build confidence and take pride in stewarding the local river and watershed, hopefully for years to come!
All classes follow the same curriculum during the span of 4-5 months during the school year. The curriculum features hands-on activities conducted by the teacher or classroom guest speakers and an Action Project that reinforce one or more key water concepts known as The Big Water Questions. While a few questions are addressed specifically answered in presentations — for example, What is the water cycle? — further questions such as “What do I have the power to change?” are prompted through the action project and require students to think more deeply. The goal is for students to understand all questions and be able to formulate logical answers. The curriculum covers three units:
By participating in RiverXchange® teachers get the benefit of bringing in a hands-on, science and language arts program into the classroom that correlates to many of the Common Core Standards and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for 5th grade. Participating teachers also join RiverXchange® program staff and partners at the yearly Teacher Workshop to learn about the curriculum, network with other teachers and develop skills in areas such as project-based learning, NGSS, outdoor learning or other relevant topics. RiverXchange® offers an inspiring community of teachers opportunities to improve and empower each other as professionals.