Pictured: The Ventura River. Photo by Kimberly Rivers. 

by Kimberly Rivers

Ventura Unified School District (VUSD) is searching for eight science teachers at the middle and high school levels to receive training and support for a new environmental science program titled Ventura River Action Network (V-RAN). 

The VUSD program will focus on the monitoring and restoring of the Ventura River Watershed and the support and removal of the Matilija Dam. The program is designed to collaborate with local and state environmental organizations working on those issues. 

The program will be administered in partnership with the MERITO Foundation, Ventura Water and U.C. Davis Center for Community and Citizen Science. It is funded through a three-year National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Bay-Watershed and Training Grant Award. 

The program offers professional development field training for teachers, as well as webinars and science curriculum, with stipends for eight science teachers per school year over three years, along with live and virtual monitoring. Once underway, the program will involve 600-750 local students within the Ventura River Watershed and related coastal areas. 

One feature of the program includes a STEM competition in which students will design a plan to reduce the footprint of their school campus. 

NOAA’s educational program is based upon the concept of providing Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences (MWEEs) with a focus on “locally relevant, authentic experiential learning for K-12 students.” These learning environments can be both indoor and outdoor and will be aimed at increasing “understanding and stewardship of watersheds and related ecosystems” and building environmental literacy. Ultimately the program seeks to prepare students to identify environmental issues around them, and be able to come up with solutions so that they will be empowered to protect and restore watersheds. 

Grant funding is awarded on a regional basis and offers specific place-based STEM resources and expertise both for the training of teachers and the implementation of the program as local education priorities are identified. 

Current VUSD middle and high schools science teachers who wish to participate are encouraged to contact Bret Klopfenstein, VUSD Science Specialist, at bret.klopfenstein@venturaedu.org, or Rocio.Lozano@meritofoundation.org.