Exploring Our Living Streams Workshop in Pell City

In late July 2022, AWW teamed up with Benjamin Moore Company (yes – the paint people!) to host an Exploring Our Living Streams (EOLS) Educator Workshop to teach educators how to help their students learn about stream biomonitoring and watershed stewardship.

The EOLS workshop was held at Benjamin Moore’s facility in Pell City, Alabama, which included a wonderful outdoor classroom and access to Fishing Creek in the Coosa River Basin.

Read more about the workshop and Benjamin Moore’s environmental education program below!

Paul Tomaszewski with Benjamin Moore and AWW Staff Sergio RuizCordova kick off the workshop at the Outdoor Classroom at Benjamin Moore’s protected wetland and wildlife area. Photo credit: Mona Dominguez

Stream Biomonitoring

Prior to the in-person field day, educators participated in a one-hour Zoom call and self-paced online course, Introduction to Alabama Water Watch to get introduced to the program and curriculum. This pre-work allowed us to kick off the workshop by jumping right into Fishing Creek behind the facility to conduct stream biomonitoring.

Photo credit: Mona Dominguez

For folks who aren’t familiar with stream biomonitoring, it involves assessing stream health by using benthic macroinvertebrates (aquatic critters!) as water pollution indicators. Most people may be familiar with some of the critters used in the assessment, like dragonfly nymphs, crayfish, and aquatic snails.

Crayfish! Photo credit: Sydney Zinner
Sergio helps pan for critters. Photo credit: Mona Dominguez

What did we find? The critters told us that the water quality on Fishing Creek was pretty good!

Activities from Exploring Our Living Streams Curriculum

Back in the classroom, we took a dive into the EOLS Curriculum (you can find detailed info about the curriculum at the end of this post).

Educators play Macro Mania. Photo credit: Mona Dominguez

Educators simulated a stream bioassessment collection through Macro Mania. MacroMania is a classroom adventure that was originally created by AWW founder Dr. Bill Deutsch. It is a simulation game that introduces the concept of stream biomonitoring with macroinvertebrates as indicators of water quality. It is an effective tool for teaching elementary and high school students as well as adults!

The most recent version of the game is in a bilingual (English/Spanish) format thanks to collaboration with Global Water Watch Mexico partners. MacroMania can also be purchased directly from LaMotte, Ben Meadows, Acorn Naturalists, and NascoScience.

Benjamin Moore’s Environmental Conservation and Education Program

During lunch, members of the Benjamin Moore Environmental Education team Paul Tomaszewksi and Greg Crump, spoke on the company’s environmental education program and how it began. Much of the credit should be given to Paul, Technical Manager with Benjamin Moore & Co., for having and implementing the vision over the past 15 years. We were all very impressed by the work that has been done under Paul’s leadership to make community environmental stewardship a priority for the company. They shared the following about their program,

“The Benjamin Moore Pell City Facility earned its first Wildlife Habitat Certification in 2005. Since then, we have maintained our Certifications in the Wildlife at Work Program and the Corporate Lands for Learning Programs of the Wildlife Habitat Council.

Benjamin Moore Pell City is committed to giving back to the community. The educational components of our programs support the long term future of Pell City through its youth. Our mission thru these programs is to provide an outdoor learning facility for local school groups and our neighbors in the community.

We strive for all who participate to understand the importance of our environment in which we live and to learn about the responsibility that we all have, especially industries, in keeping the environment pristine for us and future generations.”

The students, teachers, and guests experience firsthand how sound environmental management drives all our business practices.”

Fishing Creek on Benjamin Moore’s property. Photo credit: Mona Dominguez

Paul will soon be retiring from Benjamin Moore, but other team members, including Greg, are dedicated to ensuring that the program continues to thrive. AWW certainly enjoyed the opportunity to work with the team, and looks forward to future collaboration with such an exemplary intiative.

More About the Exploring Our Living Streams Curriculum

The Exploring Our Living Streams curriculum provides hands-on activities aimed at helping students learn about the uniqueness of Alabama’s waters, pollution threats to our waters, and how to be a watershed steward. Furthermore, it prepares educators (teachers, informal educators, and volunteers) to train youth as citizen scientists who can collect and understand credible water quality data.   

There are currently EOLS editions for Water Chemistry Monitoring and Stream Biomonitoring, and the newly developed Bacteriological Monitoring edition which was made possible by the NOAA BWET sponsored 4-H Alabama Water Watch Project: Exploring Pathogen Pollution in Our Waters. Each edition of EOLS includes content related to about the water environment, pollution, and stream ecology.

Educators gain access to the EOLS curriculum by completing an EOLS workshop during which they are also certified as AWW water monitors. Educators who work with the 4-H AWW Program to implement the curriculum can work with AWW to certify their students or club members as 4-H AWW monitors, allowing them to collect and submit water data. Educators also receive CEUs for their participation.  

Stay tuned to our Events Calendar for upcoming educator workshops, and make sure you are subscribed to the AWWareness Newsletter to get updates!