From Our Watershed to the Ocean Project Overview

From Our Watershed to the Ocean is an ensemble of exercises about the importance of water in our unique region, and the necessity to care for it. We rely on running water everyday, but we often take for granted the safety of our water. Pollution can result in dirty drinking water, beach closures, and even diseases in humans.

Where does the water we use come from? Where does it go after we use it? Does our daily activities such as flushing a toilet, washing clothes, and fertilizing the lawn have an impact on the quality of the water and on the health of the wildlife in our region, including the ocean?

Students make art and design projects about the importance of water and the consequences of human activity on our watershed and on the ocean. From individual work to a group installation, they explore various techniques including drawing, watercolor, collage and graphic design basics.

1. Making a Terrarium – understanding the Water Cycle

Human activity can affect the water cycle. Why is the water cycle so important for the balance of ecosystems? Students build a terrarium with small house plants, soil, charcoal and gravel. They decorate it with personal elements like rocks, pieces of wood, creating a mini landscape.


2. Rendering Water with Simple Lines

This first exercise of the Water Project is about drawing lines and thinking about what is happening. The directions are simple, yet, concentration is needed. When I talk about the “quality of the line” I want the students to experience what it is to decide the path of a line, to feel the tool they are using and the pressure on the paper, to make variations and see the differences. This exercise is about discovering the power of a simple black (or blue!) line when we are in command. It also shows that creativity does not depend on the quantity of material we have at our disposal. With simple means so much can be done.

3. Symbols About Water

Using design thinking concepts (documentation, sketching ideas, refining ideas, prototyping), this exercise introduces the students to the importance of water on Earth and to graphic design basic techniques.

What are the places where there is water on Earth? What are the uses of water? Students translate words about water into simple images, made of a few lines, using contrasts, positive and negative space. 


4. Watercolors of Our Waterscapes

The lesson starts with an introduction about the importance of water in our region. Do we know places where there is water? What are these places? Can we show them on a map or a satellite photo?

The students receives printed photos of one of the waterscapes of our region. They draw the main lines of that waterscape. This is an observation drawing, where the students have to draw what they see, not what they think the waterscape looks like. The students mix the primary colors to match the colors on the photo. They learn the basics of the watercolor technique. At the end of the exercise, a discussion takes place about the diversity of the waterscapes and the array of features they offer.

What are the important bodies of water that exist in the region where I live? How waterscapes from the Pacific Ocean coast differ from the waterscapes from the San Francisco Bay? Colors are specific to certain terrains, plants. To observe the different colors of the waterscapes help us understand how they are structured.


5. Data Visualization – Understanding our Water Consumption

The majority of the water we use is hidden is what we eat. How Much water do we really use daily? When do we use water the most? The students will work in group to create data visualization to understand the different amounts of water needed to grow/produce different food.  In this exercise, the students use graphic design basics to represent data.


6. How to Protect our Watershed ?
Designing Posters Using Digital Tablets

Using design thinking concepts, students work individually to create a unique digital poster about the watershed conservation, using a tablet and an app like Pic Collage. They learn how to articulate text and image to create a clear message.

How can things I am doing at home can have an impact on the quality of the water and the health of the wildlife in the watershed where I live?

How can I graphically express an idea with simple means? How does the different placement of the different elements (message, explanation, image) change the perception the viewer has of the overall image?


7. Water Facts Collage Posters

Agriculture, industry, everyday life, health: water is at the center of our lives. Based on individual research and using fundamental design principles (balance, proximity, alignment, repetition, contrast and space) and design thinking process, this project explore the importance of water through the creation of a sharable collection of unique posters. Students make a composition without gluing the elements, take a photo, add the text with the app, save several versions of the poster. One poster is printed/shared per student.

How can I articulate a message and an image about a fact concerning water?

How can I graphically express an idea with simple means? How does the different placement of the different elements (message, explanation, image) change the perception the viewer has of the overall image?


8. The Importance of Plankton – Installation

This project is an adaptation of a participatory installation I created for the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History in October 2015: Plankton Our Invisible Foundation.

The students create elements for a collective mural representing an ensemble of enlarged plankton organisms.  The black light makes the reflective elements seem to float in the space.

Why is plankton so important? Why should we care about it? Why should we take the time to create a mural that is a tribute to it?
Can we do something powerful together? Is it possible to make art with very simple materials and techniques?


9. Endangered Marine Species Collage

Major threats include: overfishing/unsustainable fishing, inadequate protection (not enough sanctuaries), tourism and development, ship strikes, oil and gas pollution, consequences of aquaculture (pollution), climate change (change in ocean temperatures).

Students research about endangered marine species. Each student chooses a different species, gather information about that species, especially the threats it is facing and select a photograph t work from. The second part of the exercise is about drawing the species, creating a background and designing letters to create the name of the species. When all the elements are ready and placed, they can be glued.


10. Human Impact on the Ocean – Short Stories with a Shadow Theatre

Telling a story about human impact on the ocean with a show puppet theater and documenting the story with a tablet to make a very short video. Prior to this exercise, the students already studied some aspects of human impact on the ocean, they are familiar with the subject.

11. Endangered Marine Species Shadow Box

Students make their own research about endangered marine species – what are the threats? They know about human activities and their impact. They know how to draw a shape without many details so that it is still recognizable: using small means to express something complex. They know what is a simple closed circuit and they construct one, with one LED, one battery, conductive tape, and a switch system. They make an art object that they can keep, show and share.

12. Seafood Watch with the Monterey Bay Aquarium App.: Collage Poster

This exercise is inspired by the release of the app. Seafood Watch by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The choices we all make concerning seafood are very important for the future of the ocean. Everyone can use the Seafood watch to make the best choices when buying seafood items. This app and its application are right in the alley of the new NGSS “Earth and Human Activity”. The students learn about seafood and how it is caught around the world and what are the best (and worst!) fishing techniques and farming techniques. Each student chose a species, made a watercolor and created the lettering for the name, and made a collage completed with a tag explaining why that species is a good or a bad choice to buy. And had their parents uploading the app to help the family making the best choices at the store!

13. The Plastic Monster: Understanding the consequences of our plastic consumption/making a collective sculpture as an art statement.

The plastic pollution in the oceans is extremely important and is a growing problem for many marine species. We need to reduce our plastic consumption and to better recycle.

The students gathered the plastic containers they used at home. With all the containers, they are creating a Plastic Monster. The students work in groups, they have to engineer the monster, think about ways to attach the containers together. In the end the groups attach the different parts together.