Adopt-A-Watershed Program


The Adopt-A-Watershed (AAW) Program is dedicated to inspiring students to become lifelong learners and watershed stewards who strive to create a healthy quality of life for current and future generations. Its goals are to:

  • Bring real life experience to school curriculum, making it relevant to students’ everyday lives
  • Engage students in meaningful projects that can truly make a difference in their community
  • Build bridges between schools and communities



AAW applies the project based learning (PBL) approach within the context of the school’s watershed.  It involves students applying their knowledge and skills over an extended period to address a real and relevant community need or issue and culminates with the students conducting a service or producing a product that addresses the issue.


A Living Laboratory:   The schools’ adopted watersheds and the communities within them are transformed into “living laboratories” in which to learn.   This laboratory becomes a place to bring curriculum to life by conducting projects that make valuable contributions to the community.  In the process, students acquire knowledge and skills, build relationships, solve problems, overcome obstacles, make decisions, and take action.

Multi- and Interdisciplinary Approach:   Teachers of multiple disciplines — biology, chemistry, ecology, social studies, and history, to name a few – independently or jointly use this living laboratory. Watersheds know no boundaries between disciplines and are therefore ideal places to conduct projects where classes come together to address a community issue.

Hands-On Curricula:   Curricula are used from the national AAW program and from other excellent programs such as Project WET, Project Wild and the TVA Water Quality Monitoring Network as well as created by local AAW supporting staff. Their implementation provides valuable baseline knowledge and skills needed by students to carry out their projects.

Authentic: Student projects meet genuine needs of the community. Teachers, students and community partners team up to devise projects that can make a valuable contribution to the community and its environment while also meeting curriculum requirements.

Sustained Inquiry: Projects are conducted over a series of lessons, providing needed knowledge and skills and allowing for ongoing research.

Public Product or Service:  The culmination of PBLs typically include students presenting their results to the community presentations, displays or reports.  This allows for feedback, providing students input on the value of their work and opportunities for improvement.

Reflection: Reflection is essential to the learning process and is integrated into each project. This is often in the form of project journals, structured discussions are/or student presentations. This allows students to internalize the significance of their project including its benefits and their contributions to it.


AAW has been possible through the work of the two CAC AmeriCorps members we host each year. This two member team are college graduates that have majored in a science field. Each of these highly motivated individuals have made a conscious decision to dedicate a year of their lives to educating and involving citizens of Oak Ridge in the protection and enhancement of their local watersheds.


Through the help of AmeriCorps members and Oak Ridge High School Teachers, below are the following projects students in this program have produced so far:

  • Public Service Announcements that were developed and recorded in class and are now aired on the local Oak Ridge TV channel. These PSAs all promote best management practices and how they can help keep our local waterways clean
For more information on the Oak Ridge High School Adopt-A-Watershed service learning activities, please contact For more information on the Adopt-A-Watershed Program, please contact Ruth Anne Hanahan at the UT-TN Water Resources Research Center at or 865-974-9124