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Posted on: April 7, 2020

Yuba Water Agency makes large-scale investment in water education for Yuba County schools

A Yuba Water Employee teaching young students about the watershed in a classroom

In its first major move toward building a water education center and developing unique lessons to enhance Yuba County schools, Yuba Water Agency today approved approximately $850,000 toward the community-driven effort. 

The board approved a two-part plan, one focused on curriculum development, the other on developing a master plan to help determine the size and scope of the facility. 

“A couple of years ago, I visited Sonoma Water’s Westside Water Education Center,” said Brent Hastey, Yuba Water Agency vice-chairman. “I was immediately inspired and realized that we could do something like that here. I am thrilled today to be able to say we’re really going to do this, and to be taking the first major step in making this dream a reality. This will be a priceless asset for the schools, but also for all of Yuba County.”

“We talked a lot today about how our community needs this symbol of hope, now more than ever,” said Gary Bradford, director of Yuba Water Agency and county supervisor for the 4th District. “This is something that will benefit our entire community, enhance the educational offerings in all of our schools, and spark economic development as well as community pride. I am thrilled we are moving this project forward!”

Curriculum development will be done locally, by hiring Yuba County teachers during the summer of 2020. The educators will first learn how to create lessons that meet Next Generation Science Standards, and then work in small teams to write the curriculum and find opportunities to tie in other educational needs, such as math, engineering, art, technology, writing, social science, history, art and more. The teachers would then test out the lessons they develop with a small number of classes and make any necessary adjustments over the course of the 2020-2021 school year. Once finalized, the lessons will be broadly rolled out to all Yuba County schools. 

The cost of the curriculum development, including stipends for teachers and consulting fees, is estimated to cost $400,000 over approximately a year and a half. 

The master planning process for future development of a modern, sustainable and interactive facility will be awarded to DLR Group, a firm that specializes in educational facility design. 

A master plan ensures that the project receives broad community and stakeholder input as the vision is fine-tuned. The $449,320 contract will result in a clear picture of what this facility will eventually become, inside and out, including an actionable plan to jump-start the building process, renderings of the future facility, an online interactive tool and virtual reality experience to help stakeholders get a feel for what the facility will be like. Additionally, the contract includes an education expert who will ensure that the facility includes interactive exhibits and experiences that complement the curriculum being concurrently developed.  

While the agency has not yet secured the land for the facility, that process is underway.

“The conceptualization of the Water Education Center is much more than a vision,” said Dr. Francisco Reveles, Yuba County superintendent of schools. “It is about investing in our future and a lasting reminder of what is good, what is possible. Indeed, it is a collective reflection of our dreams as inspired by the beautiful Yuba River!” 

Since Yuba Water began investigating the possibility of developing a water education center and programming, a broad group of stakeholders formed an advisory committee to guide the water agency in this process. That committee includes representatives from Yuba County Office of Education, Yuba Community College District, all five school districts in Yuba County, South Yuba River Citizens League and the Yuba River Endowment.

Additionally, two work groups made up of many teachers, administrators and outdoor education specialists have volunteered tireless hours to determine the recommended paths forward for curriculum and facility development.

Teachers who may be interested in participating in the curriculum development this summer will be notified through the schools about an upcoming information session to learn more about how to apply. 

More about the vision and goals of this project can be found on the Yuba Water website - yubawater.org - as well as information about some of the curriculum programming already underway in Yuba County schools. 

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