Monthly Update: June 2020

Stephanie leads a virtual nearshore field trip at Boston Harbor Marina for Komachin Middle School.

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!


Monthly Update: May 2020

Some of our educators and teachers in our Zoom CLAMSS Fellows Meeting!

Can you believe we’re already done with May? Now in our second month of complying with the state’s Stay at Home order, South Sound GREEN has adapted to our new normal and are continuing to provide the best resources possible for our amazing local teachers and students. We are regularly creating environmental education activities through our weekly Home Science Activity articles for ThurstonTalk, and regularly updating our student and teacher resources on our website to promote some of the materials created by local education organizations. We would be usually going on nearshore field trips this time of year to bring students to Puget Sound beaches and help them connect their freshwater monitoring site with the marine environment. However, in response to the Stay Home Stay Healthy order, we started working with some of our local partners to design a full online course to replicate our field trip experience from home. While we know that nothing compares to getting outside and seeing some native critters yourself, we hope that this course can be a nice alternative for the students!

Along with field trips, we have had to think differently about another one of our favorite in-person activities, teacher professional development. But much like our curriculum, we’re finding ways to do that online as well. This month, we had our first all-online Climate Literacy, Action, and Monitoring in South Sound (CLAMSS) Fellows professional development meeting for teachers, involving 23 teachers from Thurston and Pierce counties all on a Zoom call. We are so inspired by these educators and their efforts to teach effectively and interactively from their homes, and our goal was to not only provide them with resources to use in their virtual classrooms, but to connect with each other and strengthen their network of support. Talks from local artist and Thurston Climate Action Team member Carrie Ziegler (check out her latest collaborative art project here!) and University of Washington and Puget Sound Restoration Fund research assistant Emily Buckner were insightful and engaging. Breakout rooms allowed for formal and informal educators to bounce ideas off of one another and share tips for better adapting to the current circumstances. Overall, the meeting was a massive success.

We have more upcoming teacher events, including our annual Summer Institute for Teachers, that we’re anticipating as virtual events as well. We’re excited to find ways of being creative while distant during these challenging times, but we still look forward to getting to interact with students and teachers again in the near future!


Monthly Update: April 2020

An example of a phenology wheel from our Fun with Phenology activity

For South Sound GREEN, April has historically been one of our busiest times, with lots of Nearshore field trips to Puget Sound scheduled to take advantage of the longer days and nicer weather. This year, with the new normal of self-isolation and home-based schooling, we had to cancel all of our field trips and outdoor experiences and find new ways to reach our students and teachers. We tried to make the best of this unusual situation to create unique, engaging environmental experiences for students to do from their home or local green spaces. We partnered with Thurston Talk to distribute multiple Home Science Activities every week, ranging from running through Salmon Obstacle Courses to building rain gauges for Rainy Day Research to even becoming a Time Traveling Nature Journalist (or at least pretending to time travel)! We also have compiled and organize dozens of educational resources on our website for teachers and students, and even put together a Virtual Spring Break from Home with videos from some of the most beautiful places on Earth.  

We have been regularly checking in with teachers to hear about the challenges they face from teaching at home and to figure out how we can help. This includes building relevant curricula and online lesson plans for students of all grade levels, and we’re hoping to take the next step into video lessons and webcasts in the near future. Self-isolating doesn’t mean that you can’t learn about the natural world!

We’re eagerly awaiting the opportunity to get back outside with students, but are doing our part to make the most of the circumstances and stay safe in the process. Remember to get outdoors and get some fresh air during the beautiful spring weather!


Monthly Update: March 2020

Students from Salish Middle School plant native species and close out the planting season in early March

March got off to a great start here at SSG, with a few classes finishing up water quality testing, a final spring restoration planting project (pictured), and we even participated in McKenny Elementary School’s first ever STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) night. However, many know that our biggest event, Student GREEN Congress, happens in March every year, and with the spread of COVID-19 we unfortunately needed to cancel our Student GREEN Congress event for the first time in its 28-year history. Although we didn’t have an opportunity for local students to present their data at The Evergreen State College, we want to acknowledge the hundreds of student delegates who put so much time and effort into their water quality testing and presentations. I was fortunate enough to see some of these great presentations, and am constantly inspired by Thurston County youth who care so much about their environment and are ready to take action to improve watershed health. To all these students and their teachers – thank you for all of your great work. Thank you as well to all the amazing volunteers, workshop leaders, and facilitators who had signed up to help with that day. We’re excited to bring back Congress next year!

In the meantime, with local schools closed, we want to urge students to still find ways to go outside and get some fresh air. We have developed a series of watershed-based activities for students to work on – alone or with a parent/guardian – from the comfort of their homes and nearby green spaces. You can follow other students’ projects on social media using the hashtag #GREENfromhome. Keeping active and getting fresh air is very important for keeping healthy during this quarantine, both physically and emotionally. And once schools resume in late April, students will be ready to participate in our nearshore field trips, tentatively scheduled for this May!

Stay safe everyone!