Protect Our Water

Protect Our Water: Educational Outreach Backpack Program with Oco the Otter

This program was funded through an EPA subgrant to UOWN Oconeewaters, with additional support from Oconee County Water Resources and Storm Water Management Department. (Original grant awarded to Dr. Allison Bailey and Dr. Jaime Mitchem at the University of North Georgia). UOWN Oconeewaters is a local nonprofit watershed group with a mission to preserve and improve our water resources through monitoring, education, advocacy and recreation.)

Teachers can choose to use Plan A; students check out the backpack and take home OR Plan B; teachers and student use the program in the classroom OR visit the Oconee County Public Works Storm Water Management page starting Oct. 27, 2020 for the program online with additional resources:

  • Teachers receive a Teacher’s Guide (written by Vicki Soutar, retired Oconee County Science Teacher and GA Department of Natural Resources Georgia Adopt-A-Stream Trainer), Oco’s Introductory Story and the follow up story introducing Lachee the Superhero Otter, and “Care Packages” (optional lesson plans; covering most of the 2nd grade Science and English Language Arts Standards and two Social Studies Georgia Standards of Excellence.)

  • Engages the class in an exciting adventure with Oco the Superhero Otter through an introductory story - read aloud to the class - and optional lesson plans.  The introductory story is written and illustrated by Gail Langer Karwoski, retired Oconee County Teacher and children’s book author and a 2nd follow story introducing Lachee; another Superhero Otter, on which she collaborated.

  • Focuses on 2nd grade Georgia Standards of Excellence for Science and English Language Arts as well as Social Studies. Students reflect about Oco’s adventures as they read, write and illustrate what they have learned about living vs non-living things; how water is used; the water cycle and how humans impact the environment. In the 2nd story, students cover Standard S2E2: Obtain, evaluate, and communicate information to develop an understanding of the patterns of the sun and the moon and the sun’s effect on Earth. Helps address Social Studies Standards: SS2G1 Locate and compare major topographical features of Georgia and describe how these features define Georgia’s surface; SS2G2 Describe the cultural and geographic systems associated with the historical figures; English Language Arts. 

  • When the students check out the backpack or teachers use in the classroom or online, students will make observations and gather data in and around their home or school. Then they read, write, and reflect on Oco’s visit in “Oco’s Water Log.” All materials are provided for completing the activity. The teacher is encouraged to start a classroom scrapbook of Oco’s adventures with the students.


  • Provides a student backpack; one per class, with all materials including 4 books for students to read, Water Log, art supplies, paper and activities.  

    • 4 Books provided are: This Is The Rain by Lola M. Schaeffer; River Beds, Sleeping in the World’s Rivers by Gail Langer Karwoski;  Trout Are Made of Trees by April Pulley Sayre;  The Magic School Bus at the Waterworks by J. Cole & B. Degen


  • Encourages parents to learn how they can be part of the solution to water pollution alongside their children when Plan A is used or if teachers use Plan B they can adapt activities to provide educational reach out to parents.

To sign up, send your name, school, grade level, class size, best means of contact (email? phone?) to your school’s designated contact person or to  Vicki Soutar at or Oconee County Storm Water to Amy Morrison at ASAP to reserve your backpack(s). There are 23 backpacks available on a first-come first-serve basis.

This project was supported by a subgrant to the Upper Oconee Watershed Network’s Oconeewaters Committee from the University of North Georgia EPA grant#00D882218 received by Dr. Allison Bailey and Dr. Jamie Mitchem of the Lewis S. Rogers Institute for Environmental and Spatial Analysis; Oconee County Water Resources Department and Oconee County Storm Water Management as well as donations from local citizens.  Special thanks to North Oconee High School student Zach Peltier for the logo design and graphic design teacher Jamie Lucas for his assistance, Gail Karwoski author and illustrator of Oco’s introductory story and Muriel Pritchett design layout; 4th grade students at High Shoals Elementary for making Oco’s Superhero capes; Athens Clarke County Water Conservation Dept. for allowing us to model this program after their Little Lilly’s Pad Hop and to their Stormwater Dept. for their assistance and encouragement.

The backpack program is designed to be flexible for use with in person instruction or virtual instruction or with use using the take home model.  The student backpack with student water log activity to do with their parents; 4 books that can be read: This is Rain, River Beds, Trout Are Made of Trees and the Magic School Bus at the Waterworks. Use of the accompanying “care package” lessons designed for each of Oco’s two stories is recommended to allow the instructor to cover Georgia Standards of Excellence for 2nd graders in Science and English language arts.