Monthly Update: April 2021

Stephanie demonstrating how to use a dichotomous key to a group of students from Olympic View Elementary.

After over a year away from in-person teaching, South Sound GREEN resumed classroom lessons this month! Fully vaccinated and eager for face-to-face education opportunities, we were thrilled to be able to provide hands-on benthic macroinvertebrate (or “stream bug”!) lessons for students at Olympic View Elementary and Tumwater High. Adapting to new, hybrid class models was certainly a challenge, but one we felt comfortable taking on after seeing some of our fabulous teacher partners leading the way. We also continued to offer engaging virtual programming for other classes, bringing the excitement of stream bugs under a microscope to the big screen.

But we’re not stopping there! Keep an eye out for information about our new Nearshore Field Experience offerings over the next few weeks. We may not be able to take students to the beaches yet, but we can certainly bring the beaches to the students! And if you’re a teacher or if you know a teacher, please spread the word about South Sound GREEN’s programming! We are always on the lookout for new teachers to participate in our sessions. Questions? Send an email to Sam at snadell@thurstoncd.com.


Monthly Update: March 2021

An image from Dr. Carri LeRoy’s keynote presentation at our Virtual Student GREEN Congress.

Happy Student GREEN Congress month! Following the strangest school year we’ve experienced, and a full year after needing to cancel our Congress event for the first time in nearly three decades, we organized the first ever Virtual Student GREEN Congress event this month alongside our partners at Nisqually River Education Project. Changing a live, activity-packed event at the Evergreen State College into an entirely virtual experience was a challenge we were both excited and nervous to take on, but are thrilled with how it turned out.

We were determined to design all of our Congress aspects with equity in mind. Live Zoom events offered more opportunity to work directly with students and community partners, but classes have needed to juggle their lessons with coordinating students returning back to school in a hybrid model. To accommodate this, we provided teachers with synchronous and asynchronous options for all of our activities – live Zoom sessions for those who could make it, and video recordings to be shown at a later time if needed. By offering both options, we were able to preserve all of the normal features of Congress. This included an engaging State of the Rivers session, where students used a Story map and journal to examine and compare local water quality, as well as hands-on workshops, with materials provided and packed by our amazing community partners (thank you to Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, Mount Rainier National Park, GRuB, and Brittany Burkhardt!). This all led to our keynote and closing ceremony, where Evergreen State College professor Dr. Carri LeRoy gave a fascinating presentation about the unbelievable world of stream bugs (or “aquatic monsters”!), and students got to watch themselves on the big screen sharing out their ideas for how to improve our watershed health.

Overall, the event was unlike anything we’d done before, but we’re so proud with how it turned out. And a big part of the success is due to our teachers – amidst all the chaos of the changing school situation, you found the time and energy to incorporate Student GREEN Congress into your plans! Thank you teachers! And we’re not stopping here – keep an eye out for our brand new benthic macroinvertebrates activity coming soon, and virtual nearshore field trips coming this spring!


Monthly Update: February 2021

A mock-up of what the background of one of the quilts may look like! Picture credit: Carrie Ziegler

February is typically a month packed with water quality monitoring trips, stream bug labs, and preparations for March’s Student GREEN Congress. But, as you already know, this is not a typical school year! In place of our normal programming, we’ve worked to develop new virtual materials for students to learn about water quality and data analysis, offering live Zoom sessions as well. And with the first ever virtual Student GREEN Congress just around the corner in a few weeks, we’ve been doing a lot to get ready! Comprised of hands-on workshops, asynchronous class activities, and a live keynote speaker, Congress will take on a new form while maintaining some of our favorite aspects of our favorite annual event.

Outside of Congress, we’ve worked this month to publish a new ThurstonTalk article, alongside some of our partners in the Thurston ECO Network. This article, written primarily by Elisa McGee at the Puget Sound Estuarium, highlights Black leaders in STEM fields in honor of Black History Month. This amazing resource was created in part out of the ideas and discussions of the relatively new Thurston ECO Network DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusivity) subcommittee. Keep an eye out for another ThurstonTalk article this month promoting a new citizen art and science exhibit in Olympia!


Monthly Update: January 2021

A student builds a “plankton prototype”! Picture credit: Jennifer Knight

January is a bit of a slower time for us at South Sound GREEN. We use the time following the holidays to apply for grants to help fund new and existing education programs and determine our programmatic goals for the rest of the school year. But that doesn’t mean we can’t slip in a little bit of fun stuff too! This month, Centennial Elementary School put on its first ever Virtual Science Expo, headed by fifth grade teacher Jennifer Knight, a participant in our Water Quality Monitoring and other SSG programs. With over 500 students in the school and multiple other community partners joining in, we wanted to offer students an environmental-focused activity that they could do from home but was also interactive and hands-on. We retooled our Plankton Prototypes activity (originally adapted from the Foss Waterway Seaport) for students to learn about the amazing world of plankton while creatively designing one of their own. We developed videos and instructions for students to follow along at home and at their own pace, and put together kits of materials – including corks, paper clips, and pipe cleaners – to distribute to all participants. After seeing the success of this activity at a different school’s science fair last year, we were so excited to see what Centennial Elementary could accomplish!

And just like that, we’re back in Water Quality Monitoring season! We still won’t be taking students out to their test sites this February, but virtual water quality videos and Zoom sessions will pick up from where we left off in the fall. With Water Quality Monitoring, a new stream bug virtual activity in the works, and a brand new Virtual Student GREEN Congress(!) taking place in March, we have a lot to keep us busy at SSG!


Monthly Update: December 2020

Stephanie’s virtual salmon dissection setup!

Happy new year from South Sound GREEN! While 2020 was certainly not the year we were expecting to have, it was one that allowed us to explore new avenues of reaching students in Thurston County. In December, we hosted multiple virtual salmon dissections, with classes both familiar with and brand new to SSG programs. These virtual sessions, filled with plenty of “oohs” and “ewws” alike from students, were just as successful as our popular virtual salmon field trips from McLane Creek and our Digital McLane Creek Chum Salmon journal. In a month where SSG programs are usually limited, we were thrilled to be able to provide a variety of live experiences for students from their homes – and without the smell of salmon! And for people who were unable to attend any of our virtual sessions, you can find videos of each on our website!

Looking ahead, we cannot wait to get back into classrooms once it is safe to do so. Until then, we will continue leading virtual programs and expanding our catalogue of digital resources. And don’t look now, but Student GREEN Congress is right around the corner! Every year, South Sound GREEN Congress is an opportunity for hundreds of local students to gather at Evergreen State College to present their water quality data to their peers and participate in environmental-based workshops. Last March was the first Congress we needed to cancel in almost 30 years(!), and although this year’s event will take place online, we could not be more excited to have students share water quality data and brainstorm ideas about ways to improve the health of their watersheds. Keep an eye out for more information on Congress in the coming months!