Who to contact
TOURS: 650-838-2901 (temporarily unavailable due to COVID)
Report hazardous spills, illegal dumping, storm drain blockages, sanitary sewer backups or overflows in your community.
Not finding what you need?
Call the City of Palo Alto Public Works - Watershed Protection at 650-329-2122 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
MAP & Directions
To the City of Palo Alto Regional Water Quality Control Plant and the Household Hazardous Waste Station.
The RWQCP offers a variety of informative and interactive classroom programs for public and private schools within our service area: East Palo Alto, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Stanford. We reach over 100 classrooms each year and cover a variety of water-quality topics that meet California State Science Standards.
FREE DISTANCE-LEARNING STEM MATERIALS
To support the need for virtual science curriculum, we have transformed many of our elementary classroom educational materials into self- or parent-guided lessons that students can do at home. The six lessons focus on our local ecosystems and align with Next Generation Science Standards:
- Introduction: Water in Our Environment
- Problem Plastics
- Bugs in Our Ecosystems
- Who Dirtied the Bay?
- Mercury: Past and Present
- Watershed Warriors
Listed below are the classes offered by grades:
What's Bugging You?
Students crawl into the world of insects as they learn about the importance of insects in the food chain and in various ecosystem services. Students will evaluate what they know about bugs, discussing and developing their concepts of “good” and “bad” bugs as they share bug facts. Students will learn how pesticides can enter the environment and impact the food chain. The program concludes with giving students the opportunity, with no pressure, to eat edible bugs.
Who dirtied the bay?
Students step into a time machine and trace the history of the San Francisco Bay to learn about the impact of humans on our watershed. A hands-on activity builds their understanding of how runoff flows into creeks and the Bay, both directly and through the storm drain system, as they “dirty” a simulated model with pollutants from the past and present. Students learn what they can do to be solutions to the pollution that impacts this vital ecosystem.
GRADE 3 AND UP
Using an interactive tabletop relief model called “Enviroscape®”, students learn what defines a watershed. After building out the model with props to create residential, commercial and agricultural communities, students simulate how rain moves pollutants through the watershed to a river, bay and ocean. The simulation concludes with a discussion of pollution sources and best practices to keep pollutants from entering the watershed
Mercury: Past and Present
Students take a hands-on look at the impact of mercury on San Francisco Bay through the lens of the Gold Rush by tracing the history of how mercury was mined in southern Santa Clara County, used in the gold mining process, and subsequently washed into San Francisco Bay. Through the interactive “Fish-Eat-Fish” game, students experience how this toxic metal is transferred through the Bay ecosystem and food chain through bioaccumulation. Students learn what we do in present day to prevent more mercury from entering our local environment.
Microbes in Sewage
Using activated sludge from the wastewater treatment plant, students observe, document, and identify the microbes that remove pollutants from wastewater. This lab always gets an audible “WOW” from the students when they first look in the microscope. A review of the wastewater treatment process, proper lab procedures, and microscope techniques are provided, along with lab supplies, lab worksheets, and very active microbes from the wastewater treatment plant.
Student-focused Plant Tours
Learn what happens when water leaves your sinks, toilets and showers and is filtered, cleaned, and treated before being discharged to our Bay. Students will be taken on a tour of the treatment plant and shown the beginning-to-end process by a plant operations staff person. An illustrated handout will be provided to assist the students on the tour. Call us at 650.329-2901 to set up a tour*.
*Tours should be set up in advance and are free. An age restriction of 11 years or older is enforced for safety reasons.
A fun, interactive tool that the RWQCP uses to help students learn about sources and prevention of water pollution is the portable Enviroscape model. Ask us about bringing it to a school event or fair and one of our trained staff will set it up and demonstrate how a watershed works. Our model will show how nonpoint sources like storm water, transportation, recreation and residential areas, and point sources like factories, sewage treatment plants and stormdrains allow multiple types of pollution to travel through our communities and towns.