This month is Black History Month, and in honor of that, the Thurston ECO Network has put together profiles of Black Researchers, Activists, Inventors, and Naturalists in STEM (BRAIN STEM) in a ThurstonTalk article! These profiles and pictures (thanks Elisa from the Puget Sound Estuarium!) highlight advances made in STEM fields by Black leaders and, with the help of ThurstonTalk, we’re able to share this information throughout Thurston County and beyond. Also, be sure to check out the speaker event mentioned in the article, featuring a local Black scientist, later this month!
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!
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!
November means that the chum salmon are back in Thurston County! At South Sound GREEN, we’ve been working hard to put together an alternative to our usual McLane Creek Nature Trail field trips. With our friends at Nisqually River Education Project and Thurston County StreamTeam, we created the McLane Creek Nature Trail Digital Notebook for students to learn about salmon spawning and the importance of salmon from the comfort of their homes. In addition, we wanted to recreate the experience of watching live salmon, and ended up hosting 28 virtual McLane Creek salmon field trips! Students loved having the chance to observe salmon spawning activities and ask questions in real time, and we loved getting the opportunity to work with new and returning teachers!
Now, as the chum salmon run comes to an end, we’re beginning to host virtual salmon dissections and creating even more educational materials for classes. And somehow we’re already at the end of the year! Stay safe and stay tuned for more exciting virtual (and hopefully in-person) environmental education opportunities in 2021!
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.
Stay safe and healthy everybody!