Environmental Education, South Sound GREEN, Student GREEN Congress, Uncategorized, Water Quality

A Congress Where Kids Make the Decisions

Over 500 student delegates from 30 schools around the South Puget Sound and Nisqually Watersheds gathered at The Evergreen State College for the 26th Annual Student GREEN Congress on March 22nd. This year’s Congress theme focused on the Orcas of Puget Sound, featuring a welcome from State Representative Beth Doglio (LD-22) and a keynote presentation from Jeff Hogan of Killer Whale Tales, a program where students can experience the world as the animals around them do. With the Southern Resident Killer Whale population at critical levels, it was a special opportunity to connect students’ work studying local streams to broader issues of environmental stewardship in their communities.

Photo credit: Nisqually River Council

South Sound Global Rivers Environmental Education Network (GREEN) and the Nisqually River Education Project host Student GREEN Congress each year as the culmination of water quality monitoring programs with classes around local watersheds. Student delegates ranging from 4th grade through high school participated in a “State of the Rivers” session, sharing water quality data and developing action plans to improve their local streams and rivers.

Congress photo.jpgStudents also learned from experts dealing with today’s environmental issues and took part in hands-on, science-based educational workshops, including salmon dissections, investigating stream bugs, shellfish tasting, tree planting, and much more. Student GREEN Congress gives a unique opportunity to investigate other topics related to water quality.

Photo credit: The Olympian

One student who attended Congress wrote “The best part of GREEN Congress for me would have to be taking a Volcano class and meeting new people.” Even the teachers are excited about participating, “My students and I loved the break out classes. Each student was able to explore their individual interests in the water quality area.”

Final Congress InfographicThis year 159 volunteers, teachers, parents, and professionals supported the event by leading workshops and State of the Rivers sessions, guiding students around campus, and much more!

Since Student GREEN Congress began in 1992, thousands of students and hundreds of teachers have used hands-on learning to make a meaningful difference in their own backyards. The event is supported by many community partners who make this educational experience possible. In addition to support from Thurston Conservation District, Nisqually River Foundation, and The Evergreen State College, many community partners, along with local artists, scientists, and educators committed to environmental stewardship came together to put on another successful Student GREEN Congress. A special thank you to the Nisqually Indian Tribe for donating smoked salmon and seedlings as gifts for the 500+ student delegates.

Photo credit: Nisqually River Council
Environmental Education, Salmon, South Sound GREEN, Student GREEN Congress, Uncategorized, Water Quality

Did You Know Salmon Can Run?

Every fall a new batch of AmeriCorps swarm Washington State to inspire the next generation with education or #GetThingsDone by improving the environment. Just like the AmeriCorps, salmon are on their final migration back to the natal streams to lay way to the next generation and deposit nutrients into the environment. I began my journey to Washington with only the knowledge of how to eat salmon, but by November I would become somewhat of a salmon expert.

AmeriCorps Member – Aeriel

While serving with South Sound GREEN (Global Rivers Environmental Education Network), my main duty is to educate youth on water quality to the standard that salmon require. If you have never been to the Pacific Northwest, salmon is life. Not only is it one of the economic back bones of this region, supporting conservation jobs and fish markets, but it was and still is an essential food source for many local Native American Tribes.

Teaching Pacific salmon species using fingers on the hand.

Almost anything around here can be linked back to these anadromous fish. Love the orcas of the Puget Sound? Well, salmon are their major food source. Use to drink Olympia Brew Company libations? The chinook run is on the Deschutes River which was the water source of the once brew company. Or maybe you love seeing the beautiful evergreen trees in the evergreen state? Once again, salmon nutrients can be found in tree 3 miles deep into the forest. Over 137 species rely on the salmon in the ecological chain! See what I mean? Anything can be linked back to the Pacific fish.

Chum salmon spawning in McLane Creek.

That is why every year people flock to witness these astonishing salmon runs. No, salmon are not literally running… wouldn’t that be a sight! But instead these salmon are migrating from Alaska into the Strait of Juan de Fuca and head down to the South Puget Sound where they nose their way back to the natal stream. I get the pleasure of educating the locals and tourist about this unique spawning display. People gather around stream banks to watch as the fish struggle swimming against the current, males fighting for dominance, and the females digging redds with their tails; all to get the chance to release gametes creating the next generation

As a salmon docent, I get to spend my days with salmon that are spending their last few determined to spawn and with people that are enjoying the splendors of Mother Nature. Between the Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail supported by South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group and McLane Creek Nature Trail sponsored by Stream Team, I have educated 286 students from 9 different schools and engaged with 243 visitors. All of this was achieved within 4 weeks, and there is still yet another week left in the salmon run! As people continue to view and ponder the curious world of a salmon I will be there to help fish for the answers.

Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail