Updated: April 18, 2024
By Eric Buehl , Jennifer Dindinger , Amanda Rockler , Jacqueline Takacs , and Kelsey Brooks

EC-2020-0518  |  2023

Watershed Stewards Academy Curriculum

 A parent and child sit on a log beside a stream and enjoy each other's company in nature's beauty.


The Watershed Stewards Academy (WSA) uses a train-the-trainer approach to instruct and manage a diverse group of Steward volunteer. The goal of the program is to develop Stewards conversant in watershed issues, who provide localized community outreach and assist with the implementation of best management practices focused on stormwater and improving local water quality.

The Watershed Stewards Academy Curriculum is a 13-module curriculum, comprised of numerous lessons and activities, that provides participants the basic tools and information for those interested in stormwater management. Each module is approximately 2-3 hours long. This may vary based on local program goals and objectives.

The Watershed Stewards Academy Curriculum Introduction

  • Module 1: Introduction to the WSA Program- This module is an introduction to the WSA program and the individuals who constitute a Stewards cohort. Information gained from the Steward pre-assessments, prior knowledge and/or misunderstands, should be recognized, and considered as the cohort moves through future modules (modifying those modules, if needed). 2 Lessons.

  • Module 2: Watershed Sciences and Land Use Changes- Stewards will be introduced to the basics of pollution types and sources that negatively impact water quality, and how certain behavior changes can reduce this impact. Behavior change campaigns will be addressed in Module 11. Stewards will then apply this knowledge to a land-use change activity to explore how impervious surfaces contribute to the creation and concentration of stormwater runoff.  4 Lessons, 2 Activities.

  • Module 3: Stormwater Tour- This module will allow Stewards to see the most common practices installed in the fi eld and build common knowledge about stormwater best management practices in the landscape. All the other classes in the program will be bolstered by this field trip. 1 Lesson.

  • Module 4: Water Systems and Stormwater Issues- This module reinforces the water cycle information while introducing Stewards to the different ways water is collected, used, and discarded. 2 Lessons.

  • Module 5: Legislation, Programs, and Policy- This module reinforces the contribution of the urban sector and the responsibility local governments have to address stormwater pollutants. It introduces Stewards to the relevant local programs and groups that are working to prevent pollutants from entering local streams and the Chesapeake Bay. 2 Lessons.

  • Module 6: Introduction to Small-Scale Stormwater Best Management Practices- This module introduces the most common small-scale stormwater best management practices that Stewards will encounter including rain barrels, rain gardens and conservation landscapes. The tools in this module will help a Steward when planning implementation projects, including the Class and Capstone projects. It builds on concepts introduced in the Watershed/Stormwater Module and will closely link with the native plants module. 1 Lesson

  • Module 7: Native Plants- This module builds on Modules 2, 4 and 8. This module introduces Stewards to native plants, which can play a role in decreasing the amount of nutrient pollution that reaches the Chesapeake Bay. It also emphasizes the site characteristics that determine plant selection including soil type. 3 Lessons, 2 Activities.

  • Module 8: Soil- This module introduces Stewards to the importance of soils and its potential to decrease stormwater runoff and its ability to mitigate certain pollutants.  3 Lessons, 3 Activities

  • Module 9: GIS and Desktop Analysis- GIS is an important component of the desktop analysis Stewards should perform prior to visiting a location for an in-person site assessment. Through the practice activities, Stewards will apply what they have previously learned about siting and sizing BMPs. Gathering information about soils as part of the desktop analysis will also build on the soils lesson.  2 Lessons.

  • Module 10: Neighborhood and Site Assessments- In Modules 6 and 9, Stewards learn desktop assessment skills and gain knowledge of BMPs. This module connects desktop analysis, soil mapping, and BMP design. 1 Lesson.

  • Module 11: Social Marketing- This module presents how to engage with communities and introduces how to build effective behavior change programs. 1 Lesson.

  • Module 12: Community Engagement- This module reiterates the role of a Steward in the community; allowing Stewards to use the content knowledge they’ve acquired and teach it to others in a learning environment. The lessons in this module provide information and skill-building for Stewards to learn how to work in a team setting; to value the contributions of other team members; to learn about different organizations and partnership opportunities within the county; and to walk the line between education and advocacy. 4 Lessons.

  • Module 13: Project Management and Funding- This module will ensure Stewards are able to “put together” the previous modules by walking through how they can apply their content knowledge to planning and implementing a project. Stewards will need to understand the components of small scale BMPs, community engagement events, behavior change campaigns, so that they can appropriately budget, plan, and complete projects. 3 Lessons.

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