Watching Our Water Ways

Environmental reporter Christopher Dunagan discusses the challenges of protecting Puget Sound and all things water-related.
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Posts Tagged ‘Environmental education’

Three videos take us upstream, where it all begins

Friday, August 1st, 2014

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.”

Ron 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 books.

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 said.

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 Kitsap.

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 video.

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 learned something.

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 beaver dams.

“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 area.

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.


Amusing Monday: Cartoon animals take us away

Monday, February 27th, 2012

I recently stumbled on a series of cartoons created for the Public Broadcast System that features wild animal babies exploring the natural world. Geared to very young children, “Wild Animal Baby Explorers” appeals to children’s basic curiosity, and I can see how it could get kids interested in animals and ecosystems.

For adults, the cartoon may be more annoying than amusing, but if you have youngsters you may want to give it a chance.

I have never seen this series on our local affiliate, KCTS, but I may have just missed it. I also cannot find any local programming information about the show, which was launched at the end of 2010. See news release. If you know more about the show, feel free to comment.

The program is based on a children’s magazine published by the National Wildlife Federation. The ongoing website offers educational materials and, of course, a line of products for people to buy.

One can check out the video page for short clips taken from the 13-minute cartoon segments. Meet the individual animal babies on video, and learn more about their personalities through brief written descriptions by clicking on the rotating banner on the home page.

If you like what you see, DVDs of the series can be purchased from online retail stores.


‘Water Courses’ will connect people to current issues

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

If you would like to learn about today’s leading water issues without being overwhelmed with technical details, you may be interested in a two-day seminar coordinated by WSU Kitsap County Extension and Washington Sea Grant.

The event, Oct. 14 and 15, is called “Water Courses: Connecting West Sound.” A number of impressive speakers are lined up for the two-day event. The first day is dedicated to research findings and restoration projects, with the second day focusing on the personal level, including how people can address today’s environmental problems.

While speaking of events, I should mention the latest in the Sustainable Cinema Series, sponsored by Kitsap County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido. The film is called “The Age of Stupid.” It’s a retrospective look at today’s response to climate change from the perspective of people living in 2055. The film will be shown at Port Orchard’s Dragonfly Cinema at 6:30 p.m., with a discussion to follow. For details, see the Kitsap County homepage.

As for “Water Courses,” Peg Tillery, who coordinates Kitsap County Beach Watchers, said the seminar grew out of a desire to help residents of the Kitsap Peninsula get in touch with the water issues of today. Educational programs have been ongoing in other parts of Puget Sound, but nothing as wide-ranging as “Water Courses” has ever been held for a general audience in Kitsap County.

A coordinating committee started putting the program together by asking their friends and neighbors what they would like to know about water, Puget Sound and environmental issues. As a result, the topics have a greater down-home flavor than you’ll find at most conferences.

“Our goal is to have it every single year around this time, when people are back in school and the monsoons have started,” Peg told me. “Anyone 12 years old and older may attend, and we’ve tried to keep the cost low.”

Topics the first day include ocean acidity, water quality studies in Poulsbo’s Liberty Bay, pollution modeling in Bremerton’s Sinclair Inlet, marine reserves in Puget Sound, energy and sustainability initiatives, and the effects of stormwater on salmon.

The second day offers participants choices, with six topical tracks to choose from: science; food from the sea; going green; animals and critters; water quality, safety and getting involved; and plants and landscaping. One can stay on a single track for the full day or choose your favorite topics from among 36 presentations.

Check out the schedule and sign up early on the Kitsap Extension website. The cost is not much more than the catered lunch that will be provided. It’s $30 for the first day, $25 for the second day or $45 for both days.

Keegan Kimbrough, 15, designed a poster for “Water Courses: Connecting West Sound,” shown above.


Students share environmental projects during summit

Friday, May 20th, 2011

It was refreshing this week to join 250 students of all ages at the GreenSTEM Summit in Belfair, where young people shared environmental projects they had been working on through the year. Check out my story in Wednesday’s Kitsap Sun.

Jaclyn Davis, 9, a third-grader at Breidablik Elementary School in North Kitsap, looks for birds during Tuesday's GreenSTEM Summit.
Kitsap Sun photo by Larry Steagall

The students came prepared to discuss their projects with others. While some students were more technically astute than others, it was clear that most had learned a great deal from the experience. Most of the 10 schools represented at the summit were engaged in some type of ecosystem analysis, such as monitoring streams for water quality.

During the first part of the day, the students visited educational displays, where experts talked about issues ranging from steelhead to cooking oysters and clams, including geoducks.

Later in the day, they became involved in “nature mapping” at the 40-acre Pacific Northwest Salmon Center. Nature mapping involves observing animals and writing notes in data sheets, as professional researchers would do.

(more…)


Salmon in the Classroom survives in Central Kitsap

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

Central Kitsap’s Salmon in the Classroom program been going on longer than the one sponsored by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. So when I heard that the state’s Salmon in the Classroom program was being eliminated for budget reasons, I had a hunch that it might not affect Central Kitsap schools.

“The program was too important to us to have it rely on the vagaries of state funding,” Tex Lewis told me for a story in today’s Kitsap Sun.

In March 2009, sixth-graders at Woodlands Elementary School observed a two-headed salmon hatched in an aquarium as part of the Salmon in the Classroom program.
Kitsap Sun photo

Lewis is a leader with the Clear Creek Task Force, which took over the program when the Central Kitsap Kiwanis Club disbanded. (See Brynn Grimley’s July 7 story in the Kitsap Sun.)

Reporter Susan Gilmore’s article in the Seattle Times described how the state was eliminating its Salmon in the Classroom program to save more than $200,000 a year for Fish and Wildlife. The program involves environmental education for an estimated 40,000 students each year, she reported.

Paul Dorn, salmon recovery coordinator for the Suquamish Tribe, told me that the state’s program has supported a few aquariums in Kitsap County, and he hopes the tribe can pick up the cost for continuing and possibly expanding the program outside of Central Kitsap. Check out my story in the Kitsap Sun for details.
(more…)


Future Festival moving to Kitsap Fairgrounds

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

Organizers are getting ready for the third annual Great Peninsula Future Festival, which is being moved from Port Gamble to the Kitsap County Fairgrounds between Bremerton and Silverdale to make it more convenient for people to attend.

Poster for Great Peninsula Future Festival (click to enlarge)

The festival will be Saturday, July 31, and Sunday, August 1, in the lower field north of the Kitsap Sun Pavilion. This morning, organizer Gene Bullock sent me a copy of the new poster for the event. (Click to enlarge.)

The basic idea remains a combination of entertainment, food and environmental education, all coordinated to create a fun and educational event. This year, the plan is to offer a bluegrass festival on Saturday and more of a mixed variety of music on Sunday.

“We are trying to appeal to a larger audience,” Gene told me. “Saturday, we will have a festival within a festival, and we’ll bring in several bluegrass bands.”

Last year’s price of $7.50 per adult has been reduced to $5, and readily-available coupons will bring the price down to $3 for many people. The admission price and location are designed to increase interest in the event, which started two years ago with about 5,000 people but failed to match that attendance last year.

Great Peninsula Future Festival’s website
will be updated as new entertainers and activities are added between now and the end of July.


Environmental ed takes on social challenges

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Happy Earth Day!

Environmental education has undergone a revolution since the first Earth Day 40 years ago, as I describe in a story I wrote for Sunday’s Kitsap Sun, which I called “The Evolution of Environmental Education.”

Poulsbo Elementary first-grader Ella Jagodzinske, 7, looks for worms under a rock in the school's courtyard wildlife habitat.
Kitsap Sun photo by Larry Steagall

Now in Washington state, requirements approved by the state Superintendent of Public Instruction are designed to take another huge step in preparing young people to understand all sorts of environmental tradeoffs and write environmental policies for the coming decades.

The word “sustainability” is emphasized in the new “Integrated Environmental and Sustainability Education Learning Standards.” Unlike other educational standards, this new approach does not include specific grade-level expectations.

The standards call for an understanding of: 1) Ecological, social and economic systems, 2) the natural and built environment, and 3) sustainability and civic responsibility.

I hope you’ll read the Sunday piece, which includes an interactive map of environmental programs and projects across the Kitsap Peninsula. You’ll meet Lisa Hawkins, a first-grade teacher who built an outdoor classroom — a certified wildlife habitat — in a courtyard at Poulsbo Elementary School.

This amazing young teacher has a special relationship with her students, especially when they are exploring freely and finding connections among living things.

Here are some links for creating habitats to foster environmental learning at all grade levels.

National Wildlife Federation

Time Out: Using the Outdoors to Enhance Classroom Performance

Certify Your Wildlife Garden

Creative Habitats for Learning

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Schoolyard Habitat Project (Chesapeake)

Schoolyard Habitat Program (Sacramento)

Lisa Hawkins, first-grade teacher at Poulsbo Elementary, engages her students in the wildlife habitat she and an earlier class created in a courtyard at the school.
Kitsap Sun photo by Larry Steagall


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"In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught."Baba Dioum, Senegalese conservationist

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