Happy holidays from South Sound GREEN! What a crazy year it has been! From our first ever Virtual Student GREEN Congress to coordinating water quality field days for every North Thurston fifth grader, we’ve certainly had a busy and unique twelve months. This year, we have created numerous digital resources to increase equitable opportunities for students, as well as refined some of our school-based lessons while maximizing the number of students we’ve been able to work with in a single day. We’re so grateful for our teachers, district administrators, volunteers, parents, and students for everything they gave us this year, and can’t wait to continue to grow our program in 2022!
The chum salmon are back! If you had the chance to visit one of Thurston County’s rivers or creeks this month, you probably saw lots of salmon returning to South Puget Sound freshwater systems after spending years swimming through the Pacific Ocean. We at South Sound GREEN love this time of year when we can teach students about chum salmon inside and out while bringing them to the creek, even if we need to do it virtually!
Following the success of last year’s virtual field trip offerings, we again offered virtual chum salmon field trips from McLane Creek to students throughout Thurston County! This year, we engaged over 1,000 students in these virtual trips, where students were able to watch salmon spawning activities and ask live questions to a SSG educator. We also brought back our in-person and virtual salmon dissections, as well as our interactive Digital McLane Journal we developed last year, to offer new perspectives and information about these amazing salmon. You may not be able to find many live salmon at the McLane Creek Nature Trail right now, but you can still check out salmon carcasses and observe lots of other wildlife!
We also continued to coordinate water quality monitoring and benthic macroinvertebrate lessons this month. Ranging from elementary to high school, these at-school “field days” were a way for us to bring the creek to the students, and a way for students to interact with hands-on chemistry experiments and biological specimens. Let’s not forget to mention our latest Teens in Thurston (TnT) volunteer group meeting! We observed salmon at the Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail, did some trail clean up, and learned a lot about salmon from South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group (SPSSEG) educator Megan Brady. If you’re interested in participating, please reach out to Sam at firstname.lastname@example.org.
October at SSG means one thing – Water Quality Monitoring! Hundreds of students throughout Thurston County participated in our flagship program this month, analyzing important water quality parameters from local freshwater creeks and lakes that support native salmon health. SSG staff helped out at various school districts, from practicing water quality tests at Rainier High School, to offering in-class water quality testing at for Boston Harbor Elementary students, and leading STEM field days at the North Thurston elementary schools. It’s been a busy month, but we wouldn’t have it any other way!
Water Quality Monitoring will be continuing into November this year, leading us nicely into our McLane Creek Nature Trail chum salmon virtual field trips! Keep an eye out for information from local partners like Stream Team to learn when and how to see spawning chum salmon this fall in publicly accessible areas.
Also, we’re still looking for high school students to join the new Teens in Thurston (TnT) volunteer group! This month, TnT volunteers had the opportunity to assist with Orca Recovery Day, and we’re planning more exciting projects and experiences throughout Thurston County for future meetings. Interested teens and parents can reach out to Sam Nadell at email@example.com for more information.
The new school year is here and SSG has hit the ground running! As with every school year, our first education session is not for the students, but the teachers. We offered our water quality monitoring training and stream bug training for Thurston County teachers in preparation for our flagship programs this fall. We couldn’t imagine how much we had missed seeing our teachers face to face!
And finally, after a year and a half of all virtual learning, SSG was back leading in-person water quality monitoring! In coordination with Nisqually River Education Project, we have started new programs to offer water quality and stream bug monitoring for every fifth grader throughout the North Thurston Public Schools. Immediately, we’ve been able to see the positive effect these programs have on students, who have been missing hands-on experiences (not to mention how delighted we are as well!).
If that wasn’t exciting enough, this month saw the first ever meeting of Teens in Thurston (TnT), a new student volunteer group at TCD. This was an introductory meeting to get to know one another, discuss the group’s priorities and goals, and, of course, enjoy some pizza. Our next meeting will be Orca Recovery Day on October 16th, 10 am in Watershed Park, which is a volunteer opportunity for all ages! If you’re interested, please reach out to Kiana Sinner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And just like that, we’re back at the start of the school year! Summer always seems to zip by, but we utilized this summer to update our curricula, reorganize our website, and mentally prepare for taking students on field trips for the first time in 18 months! This fall, SSG and our friends at the Nisqually River Education Project will be leading water quality monitoring sessions with every fifth grade class within North Thurston Public Schools, our largest student population to date, along with the dozens of participating classes that return every year. We’re so excited to restart our flagship field program with students in person – we know how much students have missed doing hands-on activities we’ve missed it too!
This fall, we’re looking for some amazing community volunteers to help with our water quality monitoring programs. These are typically for a few hours during the school day, and we provide volunteer training beforehand. Also, if you are a local high school student (or know a local high school student) who is interested in volunteer opportunities within TCD, check out our new Teens in Thurston volunteer program! You can sign up using this form, and we’ll be sending out information about our first meeting soon.