The purpose of the Living Wetlands program is to raise public awareness about watersheds and water conservation in relation to the salt marshes at the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The program aims to raise public awareness about water use issues in an effort to slow the flow of freshwater effluent to the bay’s salt marshes and increase viable habitat for endangered species.
The program includes 15 unique interpretive programs, two to three special events a year, one summer camp, and field trips and classroom presentations for schools, community partners, and nonprofit organizations.
The field trips include an in-depth hike through refuge habitats, allowing students to see and learn firsthand about native wildlife and develop a greater sense of connection with the salt marshes. Field trips also involve hands-on activities such as mud creature studies, water quality testing, and salinity testing. Classroom presentations such as "Mysteries of Wastewater Treatment" and "Reduce, Reuse, Refuge" were created to increase the program’s audience in response to lack of school funding for transportation to the refuge. The coordinator of the Living Wetlands program also plans special events like Shark Day and the International Migratory Bird Day celebrations at the Environmental Education Center, Alviso.
The Living Wetlands program has grown exponentially since it first began offering field trips, interpretive programs, events, and classroom presentations to participants in 1999. In its infancy, the program consisted of one dedicated staff person, working part-time, serving as the Program Coordinator, providing outreach through four separate interpretive programs, a special event, a summer day-camp, and a handful of classroom presentations, and field trips. Today, the program has grown to include 15 unique interpretive programs, two to three special events a year, a summer camp, and field trips and classroom presentations for schools, community partners, and non-profit organizations.
Annually, since its inception, Living Wetlands contributed to the coordination of a week-long, free, summer day-camp for youth at the Refuge. Furthermore, the program has also contributed supporting twice annual special events at the Environment Education Center, and near weekly interpretive programs for the public. Living Wetlands is recognized as an accessible, high-quality, program that complements upper elementary, middle, high school, and college curriculum. Living Wetlands is now regularly incorporated into the coursework of environmental science courses at San Jose City College and De Anza College.
Yearly, the Living Wetlands program has enhanced its outreach. In 2005, Slow The Flow (as it was known then) partnered with the NASA Ames JASON Expedition to provide wetlands education for over 5,750 participants and then enhanced programs in 2006 by including a pre- and post-classroom visit with a field trip, to participating schools, this has become the foundation for a large part of the existing program and its assessment efforts. In 2007, in conjunction with the San Jose-Santa Clara Water Pollution Control Plant, Slow The Flow partnered to provide joint Plant/Refuge tours. In 2008-2009, a part-time intern was added, and also program metrics were revised to better display program outcomes. In 2010, in partnership with ScienceCastle.com, two interactive programs were developed and webcast live over the internet, providing a new and innovative way for participants to become involved in the program. In 2011, Slow The Flow hosted a site for World Water Monitoring Day, certified teachers in Project WET curriculum, added new interpretive programs, and enhanced current curriculum. In 2012, Slow The Flow was renamed to Living Wetlands.
On average, Living Wetlands provides outreach and education experiences for over 5,000 students, visitors, and volunteers, and to over 25 schools, colleges, and non-profit organizations annually.