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Yuba Water Agency has received a distinguished contribution award from the California Association of Science Educators (CASE) for its Yuba River watershed curriculum project. The project is the cornerstone of the agency’s broader watershed education program, which aims to promote stewardship and awareness of the region’s water and natural resources. 

“We’re honored to receive this recognition and grateful for the many partners who have helped shape our education program into what it is today,” said Willie Whittlesey, Yuba Water’s general manager. “We hope these efforts will expand opportunities for Yuba County students and inspire them, instilling a life-long appreciation for the incredible natural resources we have in our backyard.”

Kindergarten teacher Corrine Garcia pilots Yuba River watershed currirculum during a nature walk with Lone Tree Elementary students.

The agency’s curriculum development project began in 2020 with an inaugural cohort of 45 teachers who received training on the Yuba River watershed and how to create lessons that meet California Next Generation Science Standards. Teachers then worked in smaller, grade-level groups to develop more than 175 Yuba River-focused lessons in science and other subject areas covering all K-12 grades and several community college lessons.

“This award is really for all the Yuba County teachers who added one extra thing to their already very full plates last year and worked so hard to develop the new curriculum and test it out in their classrooms,” said DeDe Cordell, Yuba Water’s communications manager and lead on the curriculum project.

Yuba Water is in the process of preparing a second cohort of teachers to implement the lessons in their classes and refine the curriculum before it’s shared countywide. The curriculum is designed to pair with a planned state-of-the-art watershed experience center where students can participate in hands-on, experiential learning. The center is currently in the master planning process. 

The water education program began as an idea from one of the agency’s board members, Brent Hastey, after touring a water education center in Sonoma County.

“I am overwhelmed by the idea that we are being honored for this,” said Hastey. “I remember our first meeting on this just a couple of years ago, when we pulled friends from the local education community together to help us dream about what this could be. We all got chills that day. The excitement and energy in the room was just electric. And now, we are so close to giving this gift to all the schools in Yuba County.”

The curriculum project is an ongoing collaborative effort that involves all five of Yuba County’s school districts, the Yuba County Office of Education, Yuba Community College District, South Yuba River Citizens League and the Yuba River Endowment.

Whittlesey accepted the award on behalf of the agency at CASE’s Virtual California Science Education Conference on Friday, Oct. 8. 

Read more about the award and the curriculum project on the CASE conference website. 

Yuba Water is a public agency established to serve the people of Yuba County. Established by a special act of the California State Legislature in 1959, the agency’s primary missions are flood risk reduction, water supply reliability, fish habitat protection and enhancement, hydroelectric power generation and recreation at New Bullards Bar reservoir. Learn more at yubawater.org.