River Xchange | Rio Grande program educates local youth about water quality

By Stephanie Stuckey, Staff Reporter

The RiverXchange program is a year-long program that educates fifth graders in the Albuquerque and Rio Rancho Public School districts about water related issues and topics, said CNM instructor Amy White.

Classes participating in the RiverXchange, will have guest speakers attend their classes from different agencies such as the Storm Water Agency, 4-H, and the Water Utility Authority, she said.

Topics including water pollution, agriculture and agricultural usage of water, drinking water, sewage, and storm water are the topics being presented by these outside agencies, she said.

These are real water professionals interacting with students and answering important water related questions, she said.

RiverXchange also takes the students on a field trip to the Rio Grande River, she said.

At the river, the students are helping the ecosystem by planting trees and shrubs, including cottonwood and willow poles, as well as native wetland plants, White said.

Students also have the opportunity to incorporate geography when participating in RiverXchange, she said.

The students are partnered with a high-tech pen pal, she said.

An exchange of information regarding where the students are located in the United States in relation to their watershed happens, she said.

The students then ask questions of their pen pals such as: Does it snow where you live? How much precipitation do you get? and What is the name of your river?, White said.

RiverXchange is funded by The Mid Rio Grande Storm Water Quality Team which provides more than half of the program’s funding, she said.

This is a group of agencies that put money together to fund outreach programs about water related issues, she said.

The other portion comes from the Southern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority (SSCAFCA), White said.

SSCAFCA is one entity; a government organization responsible for flood control in the arroyos of Rio Rancho and Corrales, she said.

RiverXchange has a mandate to do outreach because storm water from the watershed is and has carried pollution to the river, she said.

The water quality team of SSCAFCA has a mandate to keep Albuquerque’s storm water clean and the only way to do that is through education, she said.

Most people are unaware of the watershed and the pollution that can get into the water through runoff, she said.

Teaching kids about how these water topics are all connected is extremely important, she said.

“Through education, we can make a difference for future generations,” she said.

White encourages students to think about and explore careers in environmental education, wildlife biology, and civil engineering.

All of these areas have great opportunities that people are not aware of, she said.

It all starts with education; biologists are needed for research and civil engineers create the infrastructures that keep the cities going such as roads and storm water drainage systems, she said.

The RiverXchange program was started in 2007 by Amy White.

White initially started out by coordinating a water festival for fourth graders that happened one day out of the school year, she said.

However, about a month after the festival, she would visit the classrooms and notice the students were not retaining much of the information, she said.

That is when the idea came to her to start RiverXchange she said.

The program switched to fifth grade because water education fit the standards for common core better for fifth grade than it did for fourth grade, she said.

Because RiverXchange is a year-long program, the students are reviewing and revisiting previously studied water topics, so the chance of the retention of information is greater, she said.

By the end of the year, the students have a real comprehensive understanding of how all these water issues and topics are connected, she said.

RiverXchange helps ensure teachers are utilizing the resources available to them regarding water related topics without making it a difficult process, she said.

Fifth grade teachers who want to participate in or have more questions about RiverXchange can visit their website at http://www.riverxchange.com, email Amy White at amy@riverxchange or call (505) 225-RIVR.

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