How do I educate people about wetlands?
Wetlands provide many opportunities for education; they are living laboratories that offer unique experiences for students of all ages. The following are some ideas for education and conservation projects related to wetlands.
Turn the wetland into an educational center. The best way to educate people about a wetland is to give them a hands-on experience. Coordinate field trips to the wetland for clubs and school groups in the community. Ask a local wetland scientist to point out unique wetland characteristics along the tour. Provide access, such as boardwalks, for people to visit the wetland without damaging plants. Put up informative signs throughout the area. Start Water Quality Monitoring in the wetland and invite community participation.
Use wetlands in a school curriculum. Wetlands provide a perfect tool for an interdisciplinary approach to teaching about the environment. Monitoring data forms and instruction sheets from the “Handbook for Wetlands Conservation and Sustainability” can be used in classes to explore wetland ecology and to introduce students to dichotomous identification keys. See the Watershed Stewardship Resources page.
Launch a public wetland education campaign. Write letters to the editor and talk to reporters about the functions and values of wetlands. Create a newsletter about your local wetland project. Sponsor community forums, workshops and presentations about wetlands. Create a display about the wetland and take it to fairs, exhibits and other events. Make presentations to environmental clubs, civic organizations, schools and other groups about the importance of wetland conservation. Hold a publicity event, such as a trash cleanup, in the wetland.
Enhance, restore or create a wetland. Expert advice and involvement is necessary with all restoration, enhancement and creation projects to ensure their success. Wetland enhancement involves creating additional wildlife habitat. For example, planting native vegetation can provide food for wildlife and building bird nesting boxes can provide shelter. Restoration returns disturbed or altered wetlands to a previously existing natural state. The most important step in restoration is restoring the hydrologic scheme, because the hydrology is the driving force behind the soils, vegetation and wildlife present in wetlands. In some cases, restoration may be as simple as removing drain tiles or plugging drainage ditches. Wetland creation is the conversion of an area that was historically upland into a wetland. Creating a wetland on school grounds, in a public park or in your backyard can be ecologically and aesthetically rewarding. Like restoration, creation of a wetland begins with establishment of wetland hydrology. This may involve excavating a depression to collect rain water and lining it with plastic to prevent water from draining through the soil, or diverting runoff from a parking lot or roof into the wetland.