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Environmental Discovery Program
During the 2004-2005 school year,
nearly 500 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students
learned the importance of native plants, native animals, and healthy ecosystems
by participating in the Environmental Discovery Program, a joint educational
project of Washington Trout and Stewardship Partners. The EDP is a hands-on,
classroom and field-based environmental education program originally developed
by Stewardship Partners that brings students from
WT Education Coordinator Casey Ralston helps students identify native plants.
The EDP was first conducted as a pilot project in Fall 2002 with four 4th and 5th grade classes. Since then Washington Trout has been busy expanding the program; we are now working with 10 classes in the fall and 10 classes in the spring! Thanks to the current funding structure, the Environmental Discovery Program is offered free of charge to participating schools.
The program consists of a full day field trip to Oxbow Farm, a pre-field trip classroom visit, and a follow-up classroom visit. The Environmental Discovery Program is all about “discovering” the outdoors and awakening each child’s appreciation for the environment. Students take advantage of two classroom visits and the wonderful farm setting to learn about native plants and animals, to explore their surroundings on guided nature hikes, and to tune into things they might not otherwise notice.
Teachers can tailor their class’ experience by selecting any combination of the EDP’s five field trip lesson modules– Plant Identification, Animal Lives, The Journey Home, Water Quality and Discovery Skills. “Plant Identification” utilizes an easily accessible area where Stewardship Partners has done a riparian re-vegetation project with native trees. Students use a dichotomous tree key that has been developed particularly for the Oxbow Farm site to identify trees and build on their skills using field guides. Other games and activities round out the educational and hands-on activities in this class.
“The Wonderful Oxbow Farm”
Maggie, 5th grader at
“I really enjoyed Oxbow Farm. I liked it because we
learned a lot but did it in a fun way. When we learned about native plants
nobody just said “Here’s an
Students working together in the Plant Identification Class.
“Animal Lives” emphasizes the importance of native animals, their habitat needs, and the delicate balance of an ecosystem. Students learn about predator-prey relationships, food webs, and animal tracking through educational games and activities.
A student and teacher favorite, “The Journey Home” is a lesson in which students role-play the journey of the salmon from the estuary to the spawning ground. The activity actively involves students in overcoming the obstacles and habitat needs salmon have when returning to their home stream to spawn. The lesson illustrates the importance of different habitats that salmon use during their life, needs such as log jams to create pools and protection, trees for shade to help control water temperature, ponds with slackwater and off-channel habitat to provide an area to rest, and gravel for the spawning grounds. Obstacles the salmon will face include animal predators, human fishermen, manmade physical barriers represented by the culvert and dam, and water quality problems as one of the home creeks is “dead” due to pollution. The class is split so that most of the students are playing the role of the returning salmon, with the remaining students becoming animal predators and human fisherman.
The Journey Home. Photos from top left: “Salmon” hiding from predators at the log jam; “Bear” predator tagging salmon; “Salmon”swimming upstream to spawn..
In the “Water Quality” class, students learn about environmental water quality as they make observations, record information and take samples to test temperature, pH, phosphates, nitrates, and dissolved oxygen in the Oxbow Channel using GREEN Low-Cost Water Monitoring Kits. Working in groups with their peers, students dissolve TesTabs into a measured amount of the water sample and then compare the resulting color to a provided color chart. The final field trip class – “Discovery Skills” – makes use of a trail through a natural area that loops down to Oxbow Lake. In this class students are encouraged to explore the natural environment by looking at plant life, searching for animal tracks, listening for birds, and of course, collecting lots and lots of bugs. The instructor has many materials to help students explore their surroundings including a wide variety of field guides, magnifying lenses, bug collection jars, binoculars, and materials to conduct additional sensory-based activities. The focus of the Discovery Skills class epitomizes the overall goals and objectives of the Environmental Discovery Program – to help students re-tune into nature and to expand their awareness and appreciation of the wildlife that surrounds them both at Oxbow Farm and in everyday life.
One specific activity in Discovery Skills is for students to spread out and tune their ears back into sounds they may have learned to normally “tune-out.” Students make a sound map of all the sounds – both natural and human – they hear around them and after ten minutes come back together to discuss their favorite sounds, what they expected to hear, and what they had not expected to hear. After the discussion, the students return to their private spot and use their other senses to focus on one particular object in their location. Using magnifying lenses and their journals, students record descriptions of their item, draw pictures, and use their imagination to discover what else the object reminds them of.
“My favorite part of the field trip was when we were out in the
forest and found a deer track and some sort of fox track. We looked them up
in the field guide. It was really neat!”
-- Emma, 4th grader at Coe Elementary
Discovery Hike Class
Sound Map Activity
“My favorite part of the field trip was when the class went out to a damp, cool, field and sat down to listen all the sounds around us. I enjoyed this because it was relaxing and I heard sounds that I normally block out of my mind.”
— Jackson, 4th grader at Coe Elementary
In addition to the field visit, there is a pre-field trip and post-field trip classroom visit to help prepare students for the field trip and to build upon the lessons they have learned. In the first classroom visit, students are introduced to concepts central to the Plant Identification and Animal Lives classes, the use of field guides and the importance of wetlands. During the follow-up classroom visit, students participate in an additional activity about field guides, an activity about wetlands, and finish by creating a picture, poem, or story about their experience with the Environmental Discovery Program.
Teaching growing caring
Animals plants thought energy
Breathing living working
Poem by Meghan
4th grader at
Volunteer involvement is critical to the success of the program as at least two volunteers are needed for each field trip. WT would like to extend our appreciation to the volunteers of the Spring 2005 Environmental Discovery Program for their time, dedication, flexibility, patience, and incredible sense of humor –Andrea Faste,.Marcela Gomez, Dan Jerke, Katrina Kindberg, Peter Millet, Sal Passantino, Jill Weaver, and Fritz Wollett, We’d also like to recognize our two amazingly talented field instructors Paula Roberts and Julie Nelson.
WT thanks Hancor Manufacturing for donating a piece of culvert material that was used in the Journey Home field trip activity to illustrate some of the challenges salmon face during their migrations.
Stewardship Partners is a
The Oxbow Farm property, 2.5 miles upriver from Duvall, has
served as a focal point for Stewardship Partner’s work in the
Because of its ecological features, the nexus of agriculture and restoration activities, and the landowner’s commitment to stewardship, Oxbow Farm has served as an excellent site for environmental education programs and it will continue to accommodate the Environmental Discovery Program as it expands in the future.
The Environmental Discovery Program and other environmental education programs raise the bar of awareness, commitment, and involvement on pressing environmental issues in our youth by involving them in discovering the outdoors. Environmental education, particularly field-based education, introduces students to the wonders of the outdoors by experiencing first-hand the beauty of the natural world, the delicate balance of an ecosystem, and the importance of conservation and restoration. Hopefully, this leads the students to a passion for the natural environment that does not rely on consumptive or recreational activities, but rather a more fundamental appreciation and understanding of their surroundings.
Washington Trout is gearing up for the Fall 2005 Environmental Discovery Program so we will soon be looking for volunteers to staff upcoming field trips, which take place on weekdays and during school hours. All volunteer instructors will receive a full copy of the program curriculum and are encouraged to draw on their own experiences and knowledge base in environmental education to make the learning experience more unique and enjoyable for both the students and instructors. Volunteers will receive plenty of personalized and group instruction to ensure comfort with the curriculum and program site. At least three instructors are needed for each field trip.
If you are interested in volunteering or have any questions about the curriculum or overall program, please do not hesitate to contact WT’s Education Coordinator Casey Ralston at caseyatwashingtontrout.org or call 425-788-1167.
4th grade, Olympic Hills Elementary
Skin, Slippery, Saltwater
Limiting Factor, Life Cycle
Nest called Redd
Running, Playing, Learning
Grass, Garter Snake, Salmon
Writing, Laughing, Walking
“The Oxbow Experience”
“The Journey Home” game was fun. We put on our salmon hats that we made earlier and went through an obstacle course. I started out as an obstacle, a fisherman. After that I was a salmon.
After that, we walked to an area and listened and watched everything. I finally got some time to just look at the Farm. Afterward we went to the river and then came back to eat lunch.
After lunch, we talked about trees. We tried to tell what kind of tree we saw by using a chart. We found a Pacific Ninebark.
Oxbow Farm was a great place. I had a lot of fun there and it might have been my favorite field trip.