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Wetlands Pathway

Wetlands are areas of saturated land where water covers soil. Water saturation largely determines how the soil develops and the types of plant and animal communities living in and on the soil. These amazing ecosystems support both aquatic and terrestrial species. Multiple waterfowl and other bird species, along with mammal, reptile, amphibian, fish, and insect species, depend on wetlands for their survival. Roughly 45 percent of species found in wetlands are rare and endangered.

Wetlands also filter, clean, and store water, acting like kidneys for other ecosystems. Wetlands' many intricate connections with groundwater, streamflow, and lake and reservoir water levels make them essential in the proper functioning of the hydrologic cycle. Economists estimate that one acre of wetlands provides about $10,000 worth of ecosystem services—or benefits obtained from an ecosystem—including: filtering and recharging drinking water, preventing flooding, protecting our coasts from hurricanes and storms, and providing habitat for diverse wildlife populations.

students looking at a physical map

Yet wetlands are disappearing at a rapid rate due to development, erosion, and a lack of freshwater inflow to bring sediments. Climate change is also impacting wetlands, causing ice caps to melt and sea levels to rise, as well as bringing on more extreme weather events [3.2.1.1].

Today less than half of our original wetlands remain. Students will use land-based investigations and systems thinking to better understand the unique qualities and functions of a wetland. Students will investigate wetland soil and water, look closely at the habitat needs of common wetland animals and engage in local migratory bird research.

Wetlands Fast Facts

Following the Framework

Utilize the Seven Step Framework to complete your pathway.

Step 1: Form an Eco-Action Team

The Eco-Action Team is the driving force behind Eco-Schools USA. Ideally, your Eco-Action Team should be representative of the whole school community—including people beyond the school walls, such as facilities staff, board members, and members of the greater community. Eco-Schools USA has developed a worksheet to help guide the development of this team.

Step 2: Conduct an Environmental Audit

The Environmental Checklist is an essential tool for understanding the current environmental situation in your school. It provides the basis for your Eco-Action Plan. Eco-Schools USA has developed an activity to get your students started.

In addition to the optional Environmental Checklist, pathway-specific audits allow teams to utilize a pathway-specific lens to dive deeper into problems and solutions, and provide the basis for the team’s Eco-Action Plan.

K-2 Conducting a Wetlands Audit | K-2 Baseline Audit | K-2 Post-Action Audit

3-5 Conducting a Wetlands Audit | 3-5 Baseline Audit | 3-5 Post-Action Audit

6-8 Conducting a Wetlands Audit | 6-8 Baseline Audit | 6-8 Post-Action Audit

9-12 Conducting a Wetlands Audit | 9-12 Baseline Audit | 9-12 Post-Action Audit

Step 3: Create an Eco-Action Plan

The action plan follows as the result of analysis and conclusions drawn from the Environmental Audit and sets forth a series of goals, actions, and a timeline for achieving environmental improvements.

1. To get started, preview the sample action plan for the Wetlands pathway. This example is designed to be a springboard to developing the team’s own action plan.

2. Use the blank action plan to develop the team’s vision.

Sample Action Plan (K-5) | Blank Action Plan (K-5)
Sample Action Plan (6-12) | Blank Action Plan (6-12)

Step 4: Monitor and Evaluate Progress

Monitoring and evaluation are intrinsic elements of the action plan, helping to check progress toward goals, make adjustments for greater success, and validate that actions are making an impact.

Step 5: Link to Existing Curriculum

Enrich your classroom curriculum with Eco-Schools projects and activities.

Step 6: Involve the Community

Communities are made up of diverse perspectives. When students consistently and authentically work to include community members from all walks of life, not just the school community, they are gaining access to dynamic networks whose end goals are the same, making their place in this world happier and healthier.

Step 7: Create an Eco-Code

The Eco-Code is the school’s mission statement and should demonstrate—in a positive, inclusive, and imaginative way—the whole school’s commitment to improving their environmental performance.

Step 1: Form an Eco-Action Team

The Eco-Action Team is the driving force behind Eco-Schools USA. Ideally, your Eco-Action Team should be representative of the whole school community—including people beyond the school walls, such as facilities staff, board members, and members of the greater community. Eco-Schools USA has developed a worksheet to help guide the development of this team.

Step 2: Conduct an Environmental Audit

The Environmental Checklist is an essential tool for understanding the current environmental situation in your school. It provides the basis for your Eco-Action Plan. Eco-Schools USA has developed an activity to get your students started.

In addition to the optional Environmental Checklist, pathway-specific audits allow teams to utilize a pathway-specific lens to dive deeper into problems and solutions, and provide the basis for the team’s Eco-Action Plan.

K-2 Conducting a Wetlands Audit | K-2 Baseline Audit | K-2 Post-Action Audit

3-5 Conducting a Wetlands Audit | 3-5 Baseline Audit | 3-5 Post-Action Audit

6-8 Conducting a Wetlands Audit | 6-8 Baseline Audit | 6-8 Post-Action Audit

9-12 Conducting a Wetlands Audit | 9-12 Baseline Audit | 9-12 Post-Action Audit

Step 3: Create an Eco-Action Plan

The action plan follows as the result of analysis and conclusions drawn from the Environmental Audit and sets forth a series of goals, actions, and a timeline for achieving environmental improvements.

1. To get started, preview the sample action plan for the Wetlands pathway. This example is designed to be a springboard to developing the team’s own action plan.

2. Use the blank action plan to develop the team’s vision.

Sample Action Plan (K-5) | Blank Action Plan (K-5)
Sample Action Plan (6-12) | Blank Action Plan (6-12)

Step 4: Monitor and Evaluate Progress

Monitoring and evaluation are intrinsic elements of the action plan, helping to check progress toward goals, make adjustments for greater success, and validate that actions are making an impact.

Step 5: Link to Existing Curriculum

Enrich your classroom curriculum with Eco-Schools projects and activities.

Step 6: Involve the Community

Communities are made up of diverse perspectives. When students consistently and authentically work to include community members from all walks of life, not just the school community, they are gaining access to dynamic networks whose end goals are the same, making their place in this world happier and healthier.

Step 7: Create an Eco-Code

The Eco-Code is the school’s mission statement and should demonstrate—in a positive, inclusive, and imaginative way—the whole school’s commitment to improving their environmental performance.

Top 10 Tips

Use the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Wetlands Mapper to look for wetlands such as:

  • Tidal and non-tidal marshes
  • Shrub or forested swamps
  • Bogs
  • Coastal

  • Avoid runoff by prohibiting use of pesticides and fertilizers on school grounds.
  • Use native plants and shrubs as buffers near water.
  • Create signs that encourage people not to litter or pollute.

  • These facilities sometimes have nutrient-rich retention ponds that are ultimately discharged into a nearby wetland.

  • Invite them to speak at your school.
  • Participate in their wetland events helping to connect and engage families with school activities.
  • Determine why champions of our waterways, such as river protectors are important.

Field investigations provide a deeper understanding of the role soils play in keeping wetlands healthy, such as:

  • Soil moisture
  • Soil temperature and pH
  • Soil characterization
  • Soil fertility