History and Timeline


Project SWELL Stewardship: Water Education for Lifelong Leadership was started in San Diego, CA through a ground-breaking partnership between Think Blue (the City of San Diego), the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD), and San Diego Coastkeeper, a local environmental organization. The school science-based curriculum is an innovative approach to environmental learning, which began with development of the 5th grade curriculum “Water in San Diego” in 2004. In its first year of implementation, SWELL reached more than 10,000 students in the San Diego Unified School District. Since then, project partners developed and implemented lessons for grades K-2nd and 4th-6th in the San Diego Unified School District, reaching 60,000 students annually. Since 2003 when the program was launched, more than 160,000 students have experienced Project SWELL lessons. Ultimately, with the support from program sponsors, SWELL curricula will be implemented in all K-12 classrooms in the San Diego Unified School District and expanded to other school districts throughout the county.

SWELL Timeline:

  • 2001 – San Diego Mayor Richard Murphy forms Clean Water Task Force
  • 2002 – Education Subcommittee of Clean Water Taskforce forms with goal of creating pollution prevention and water quality education unit that enhances the existing science curriculum in San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD). Subcommittee includes SDUSD, the City of San Diego, San Diego Coastkeeper,  the Unified Port of San Diego, the San Diego County Water Authority and the County of San Diego. The Subcommittee meets on regular basis to develop this program, later named Project SWELL (Stewardship: Water Education for Lifelong Leadership).
  • 2003 - In May, Project SWELL was officially launched during a press conference. Mayor Murphy, City Councilmember Scott Peters, SDUSD Superintendent Alan Bersin, Port Commission Chair Jess Van Deventer, San Diego Coastkeeper Executive Director Bruce Reznik and other project partners undertake Schoolyard Sleuth activity at Webster Elementary School to debut 5th grade curricula.
  • 2004 - The City of San Diego and San Diego Coastkeeper enter into Joint Licensing Agreement for Project SWELL, and the 5th grade curriculum fully rolls out in all SDUSD. The curriculum allows students to understand the distribution of water on Earth, consider the sources of water in San Diego, understand the differences between sewers and storm drains and learn how they can help prevent water pollution.
  • 2005 - The 6th grade lesson debuts, with an emphasis on understanding the definition of a watershed, identifying watersheds in San Diego, tracking the movement of water through San Diego watersheds and understanding pollution concerns and pollution prevention measures related to San Diego watersheds.
  • 2006 - The 4th grade unit debuts, educating students on a kelp ecosystem and the San Diego Bay. The curriculum allows students to understand that pollution may cross ecosystem borders and address pollution concerns and prevention measures related to water in San Diego. The 6th grade kit begins circulating to students. In addition, the City of Oceanside and the Oceanside Unified School District (OUSD) entered into an agreement to utilize the 5th grade curriculum.
  • 2007 - The 2nd grade curriculum debuts in the SDUSD, educating students about water and earth materials in the San Diego region and actions they can take to reduce water pollution. Oceanside Unified School District (OUSD) implements the Project SWELL curriculum in 5th grade classrooms and discussion starts on the development of 6th grade lessons.
  • 2008 - The 2nd grade kit rolled out in SDUSD, and a formal student evaluation form was developed to help with program assessment information. Editing and reprinting began on the existing grade levels lessons to meet the newly adopted science curriculum requirements and accommodate the need for more kits per grade level in SDUSD and OUSD.
  • 2009 - Kindergarten lessons developed and pilot-tested in the SDUSD, and formal student evaluation forms are created some SWELL grade levels. In addition, project partners started developing 6th grade lessons for OUSD.
  • 2010 - Full implementation of Kindergarten begins in SDUSD classrooms. The 6th grade curriculum is revised to meet new curriculum adoption standards for SDUSD and OUSD. 1st grade and 6th grade lessons were pilot tested.
  • 2011 - 1st grade and 6th grade kits are assembled and distributed. Project partners collaborate to recreate the Project SWELL website to be adaptive to developing technologies in the classroom and reach more teachers countywide. Professional development is offered for all grade levels of Project SWELL
  • 2012 - Project partners collaborate with SDCOE to give teachers better online access to the Project SWELL curriculum and materials.  Professional development is offered for all grade levels of Project SWELL. Focus groups begin for middle and high school curriculum development. An inventory of refurbishment kits is established.
  • 2015- Project SWELL collaborate with Pure Water San Diego to upgrade our 5th-grade curriculum Water in San Diego. Teachers can tour the Water Purification Facility during the 5th-grade professional development. 


Free Classroom Presentations and Kit

Get a free classroom presentation and SWELL kit with supplies to teach all lessons! 

Fill out the classroom request form here or send your request to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Questions? Call us at (619)758-7743 #125. 

FREE Professional Development for K-6th SDUSD Teachers

Contact us today and bring SWELL to your school!

Learn to teach all the lessons in the Project SWELL Curriculum.

Includes a SWELL kit with enough supplies for all your students.

Explore how water science supports NGSS and CCSS.


Contact Sandra Lebron at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



Contact Info

San Diego Coastkeeper
2825 Dewey Road, Suite 200
San Diego, CA 92106
Phone: 619.758.7743
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Twitter @projectswell




San Diego Unified School District Think Blue San Diego San Diego Coastkeeper