Water Quality Monitoring at South Sound GREEN is back! We’ve been reconnecting with students and teachers this month to lead live and pre-recorded water quality lessons over Zoom and empower students to strive for healthier waterways. Hands-on environmental experiences may be hard to come by in a time of virtual learning, so in addition to our virtual resources we have worked to provide teachers with water quality test strips for students to test water in their own homes. It’s been so great to do what we do best with water quality monitoring again, even with the given circumstances. If you’re a teacher or you know a teacher who could use some support and would be interested in our water quality program, please reach out and let us know!
With the seasons changing and the days getting shorter, remember that now is a great time to enjoy the outdoors! A lot of our ThurstonTalk activities (including our recent Orcas in Disguise activity) are great for getting out in nature and taking advantage of the beautiful fall weather. And keep an eye out for future videos and resources from McLane Creek Nature Trail, where salmon will be returning to soon! We’re working with StreamTeam to create resources to experience salmon spawning even if you can’t make it to the trail.
School is back! And although this year is unlike any other, South Sound GREEN is making sure students get the best water quality monitoring experience, even from their own homes! We have been working hard to develop our online resources, including interactive “field” journals, videos and other pre-recorded demonstrations, and a curriculum to allow students to evaluate water quality themselves using test strips.
We have also been building a brand new Story Map for students and teachers to go through our water quality parameters at their own pace. This Story Map is a culmination of many of the projects we’ve worked on this summer, including recorded lectures, ThurstonTalk activities, and pictures and videos of all of our water quality sites! The coolest feature of the Story Map is an interactive map of our test sites and over twenty years of water quality data, built by TCD’s very own Adam Peterson! We created the full Story Map with a lot of help from our friends at the Nisqually River Education Project, and we’re excited to share this amazing resource with our classes!
South Sound GREEN is offering live virtual water quality testing experiences with students all month, and if you’re a teacher who wants to schedule a virtual meeting with us, you can find out how on our website. Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram for program updates and highlights!
The new school year is almost here, and South Sound GREEN is preparing for a virtual start to education. As our amazing local teachers prepare for an unusual beginning of classes, we have been developing resources for students to participate in hands-on and engaging watershed activities from their own homes and nearby outdoor spaces. While there is no true substitute for spying a stream bug or seeing a spawning salmon with your own eyes, our retooled water quality monitoring program will still allow students to test water from home, take actions to directly improve the health of their watershed, and follow along with interactive online resources.
We had another wonderful professional development event this month, with 30 local teachers attending our Action for Oceans Meaningful Watershed Education Experience (MWEE) Summit that we co-hosted with the Nisqually River Education Project and Chehalis Basin Education Consortium. In this event, we gave teachers the opportunity to discuss some of the challenges of teaching environmental education virtually and provided resources for socially distant activities and lessons. Our keynote speaker, Samara Almonte, presented “Institutionalizing Environmental Justice in the Education System,” in which she reviewed the current issues facing the inclusion of BIPOC students and role models within the broad field of environmental education (you might also recognize Samara as the Digital Media Coordinator for the Thurston Climate Action Team). The respectful and collaborative atmosphere of this meeting allowed for productive discussion about equity and justice within the physical and virtual classroom, and we look forward to having similar conversations and presentations in future professional development events. South Sound GREEN is still creating weekly Home Science Activities with ThurstonTalk, and even made a video this month with Capitol Land Trust to teach kids about shapes in nature! Feel free to reach out and let us know if you would like to suggest a certain topic or if you would like to share some of your home projects.
Can you believe that we’re halfway through the summer already? While this summer is certainly different than most, we’re still taking on exciting new projects and preparing for the upcoming school year, whatever that may look like!
As the possibility of field trips this fall becomes less likely, we are developing new ways to engage students with our Water Quality Monitoring program, the most popular South Sound GREEN offering for local schools. One way we’re doing so is by documenting all of our testing sites with pictures and videos. Even if students can’t visit the sites themselves, they can still see what their site looks like – and hopefully while testing water from that site that we bring to them! It’s been a fun project to visit all 50+ sites and remind myself about how beautiful our local aquatic environments can be.
Additionally, we had the incredible opportunity this month to do water quality testing with students – in person! We worked with the Capitol Land Trust, who is hosting a group from the Northwest Youth Corp on one of their preserves. These students are living in isolation for weeks while working on conservation and reforestation projects daily. In doing so, these students effectively self-quarantine, so we were able to be a part of their nightly speaker series and bring hands-on activities as well! After talking with the students about the local watershed and salmon, we tested the water quality of the nearby salmon-bearing creek. It was South Sound GREEN’s first in-person interaction with students in about four months, and it felt great to be working with these environmentally conscious high schoolers face-to-face (or mask-to-mask). And as a bonus, the water quality results all looked great too!
South Sound GREEN is still publishing weekly Home Science Activities in ThurstonTalk, and you can find all of those activities here. School might not be starting for another month, but when it gets here we’ll be ready!
What an exciting month for us at South Sound GREEN! After weeks of missing our usual field experiences and classroom visits, we had the unique opportunity this month to host our first ever virtual nearshore field trips! Joined by teachers from Komachin Middle School, we ventured out to Boston Harbor Marina and Tolmie State Park to collect some amazing intertidal and subtidal organisms and present them to sixth graders while they watched from the comfort of their homes. While we certainly miss showing students these creatures face-to-face (the lack of “oohs” and “ahhs” was noticeable!), we loved having the chance to share some marine invertebrates with students and reveal what’s living in their nearby South Sound shores. We can’t wait to have in-person field experiences again, but after these virtual field trips, we know we will be ready to provide more distance learning opportunities in the fall if we need to!
With the school year wrapping up, South Sound GREEN was also preparing for our annual Summer Institute for Teachers, a three-day event for teacher networking, environmental education resources, and, typically, an exploration of local natural areas. Always adapting to the circumstances, this year we worked with our partners at Nisqually River Education Project, Chehalis Basin Education Consortium, and the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge to provide our first ever Stay In-stitute, a virtual training experience! Usually, this event is directed towards local teachers, however because of the virtual nature of the program, we were able to extend our reach this year and had teacher participants from all over Washington state attend! We had incredible speakers and sessions this year, from learning about harmful algal blooms in the Pacific Northwest from a NOAA oceanographer to having in-depth and powerful discussion about race and youth voice within the classroom and environmental education settings. We were even able to offer teachers the opportunity to participate in action projects throughout the county (with limits to maintain socially acceptable distances!) and in their own backyard. Our 45 teacher participants were engaged and patient as we were navigating a new Institute format, and overall the first ever Stay In-stitute was a success!
Looking to the future, we plan on spending this summer adjusting our curriculum for whatever the next school year looks like. But if you’re still looking for projects to do over the summer, we’re still writing weekly Home Science Activities for ThurstonTalk!