Field experiences centered around local watershed issues provide students with authentic learning experiences and opportunities to engage in stewardship actions. To provide Oregon Coast educators with resources and training that support Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences (MWEEs), Oregon Sea Grant launched the MWEEs by the Sea project in 2018. Over three years, the project provided grade 3-12 teachers with workshops, materials, support, connections to watershed professionals, and student experiences. Explore the resources below to plan and carry out your own project-based MWEE unit.
MWEE is an acronym created by NOAA B-WET which stands for Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience.
We all live within a watershed, so watershed field experiences can occur right outside the classroom door. Whether field experiences take place in the schoolyard, at a nearby stream, or on a trip to the coast, these activities are meaningful because they are part of a larger connected unit about a local environmental issue.
MWEEs are a type of Project Based Learning (PBL) unit that can take several weeks or months to implement.
Informal educators on the Oregon coast who support outdoor experiences for youth have noticed that some K-12 teachers tend to take students on field trips just at the end of the school year, sometimes in the last week of the school year. Unfortunately, many of these class trips at this hectic time tend to be standalone experiences that are not connected to learning happening throughout the rest of the school year, and don't lead to follow-up, reflections, or student actions.
In contrast, a MWEE unit engages students in outdoor exploration and learning that occurs over a long period of time and involves multiple field experiences that are tied to broader learning goals. MWEE units involve time for preparation, action, and reflection surrounding each experience. Students undertaking a meaningful watershed educational experience go outdoors repeatedly to local field sites, where they collect data, analyze and reflect on findings back in the classroom. Then they repeat the process to achieve new levels where they can ask follow up questions, make observations, test ideas, interact with community experts, and devise informed solutions.
More about Project-Based Learning
In the MWEEs by the Sea project, teachers attending workshops were given an Implementation Plan template and time to outline a MWEE PBL unit they intended to implement with their students. Although Implementation Plan details typically evolved over the weeks following the workshop, having this initial structure served to capture ideas from the workshop and keep everyone on track.