Wait…E. coli Comes From What?!

This week, we’re learning about young people in Albuquerque, NM, who worked with the local media to educate residents about a “smelly situation” affecting the Rio Grande.

At Coronado Elementary, a dual language school near the Albuquerque National Hispanic Cultural Center, 1st graders teamed up with 5th graders to investigate water quality at the bosque on the Rio Grande.

The 1st graders made monthly visits to conduct water quality testing at two different points on the Rio Grande, one near the Hispanic Center and one at the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge. They passed off the data they collected to the 5th graders for analysis.

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 1.06.55 PM

The older students took the data and began a yearlong investigation that tied all parts of their curriculum together, including lessons in science, literacy, art, technology, math, and social studies. They discovered elevated level of E. coli near the refuge in the water samples the first graders had collected. Launching an in-depth investigation in their classroom, they studied where E. coli comes from and came up with a list of potential culprits.

They decided to head out to the river to see if any of the offenders showed up. Once at the bosque, they noticed an enormous amount of dog waste, left by dog owners. Armed with orange flags to mark poop piles, they ran out of markers before they could make it 100 feet!

How they could convince pet owners to change their habits – which they pinpointed as the key to addressing the root cause.

Their solution was rooted in public outreach. They contacted local media outlet KOAT-TV to help spread the word on Earth Day that pet waste is dangerous, not only to the waterways, but to the residents of Albuquerque. Check out the TV spot here: There’s too much dog poop in the Rio Grande.

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 1.07.32 PM

They also created dog treat carriers as a fund-raiser to sell to residents and presented to City of Albuquerque officials explaining their finding and recommendations.


Author: Kristen Mueller

Kristen Mueller leads national communications, creating engagement and excitement around Earth Force, and its partners’, hands on, minds on programming. Specializing in traditional media and social media relations, she brings youth voice and leadership to the forefront of the environmental education field.