John F. Williams of Suquamish, known for his brilliant
underwater videos, has worked his way upstream from Puget Sound and
into the freshwater streams of the Kitsap Peninsula.
His latest video project began somewhat haphazardly, John told
me. But the end result is nothing less than an entertaining and
educational series that anyone can enjoy. It helps that each video
is just a little over four minutes. In such a short time, John was
able to tell a story while packing in a lot of information.
“It all started,” John said, “when Ron (Hirschi) invited me to
come film him taking some preschool kids down to the South Fork of
Dogfish Creek. He thought that would be fun.”
Hirschi, who grew up around Port Gamble, worked as a
biologist for years before becoming a successful children’s author.
He tells stories of nature in simple and endearing ways. In the
first video on this page, you’ll see Ron reading from one of his
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Ron and I have known
each other for more than 30 years. He was an early mentor for me as
I was learning about streams and shorelines in Western Washington,
and I still rely on him for advice from time to time. He was an
important voice in the book “Hood
Canal: Splendor At Risk.”
Anyway, it was nice to see the two storytellers — John and Ron —
link up on a project together.
“At the time, we had no idea where this was going,” John
A member of the Kitsap Environmental Education Program, John
learned that some money was available for education projects
through the “Puget Sound Starts Here” campaign.
“It occurred to me that what I was doing with the streams fit
into what they wanted,” he said, “so I pitched the idea of doing
several movies about streams and people’s interactions with them. I
wanted people to understand that these streams, which are hidden
behind the trees, are part of their lives.”
John completed the video with Ron Hirschi, showing a visit to a
forgotten stream, Poulsbo Creek, as well as the well-known Dogfish
Creek, both in North Kitsap. John also obtained leads for stories
about Olalla Creek in South Kitsap and Chico Creek in Central
His contact in South Kitsap was teacher Lisa Wickens at Ollalla
Elementary School. It so happens that I had worked with Lisa on a
story about elementary school children building a rain garden to
prevent dirty water from getting into Olalla Creek. Check out
“Olalla students learn science with a rain garden,”
Kitsap Sun, Dec. 13, 2013 (subscription).
John was blown away by the intellectual and scientific skills of
this younger generation.
“I was sitting in Lisa’s classroom one day, and she was giving
her second-graders an assignment to write a persuasion piece,” John
noted. “She wanted them to persuade someone to take care of the
Earth. I said I would love to come and film the kids reading their
papers… It was so amazing.”
You’ll get a feeling for their abilities in the second
For the third video, John connected with Maureen McNulty, a
teacher at Klahowya Secondary School who was organizing the
students to build a rain garden. It turned out that older students
were teamed up with younger ones on the project, so that everyone
John also traced the path of a stream from the school wetlands
into the adjoining forest and encountered Frank Sticklin, the chief
guru for Newberry Hill Heritage Park. Frank educated John about
“I had never seen beaver ponds, and he showed me these
incredible things,” John said.
In reality, John probably had seen beaver ponds and beaver dams
without knowing that beavers were responsible. After Frank’s tour,
he went for a walk south of Port Gamble and encountered something
that he immediately recognized as a beaver dam. Once you’ve seen
one, you know what to look for.
“I think of this as a metaphor of what I do with my movies,”
John told me. “I help people see things that they haven’t seen
before and to look at the world in a new way.”
John’s videos have been recorded onto DVDs and distributed to
nearly 200 schools and environmental organizations throughout the
He’s now working on some projects involving the Puget Sound
shoreline. I’ll let you when they are done. Meanwhile, you may wish
to check out his websites, Still Hope
Productions and Sea-Media.org.
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