Environmental Education Collaborations: 25 Years, Thousands of Students and Tons of Fun

Elementary school student Daniel Hasenbalg uses a simple miscroscope to examine a sample of pond water in the "Pond Safari" workshop at the 20th Annual Student Green Congress. Photo courtesy: The Evergreen State College

Submitted by The Evergreen State College

South Sound Global Rivers Environmental Education Project (South Sound GREEN) and the Nisqually River Education Project (NREP) are celebrating 25 years of providing opportunities for hundreds of teachers and thousands of students to do hands-on, real world science in the field at their locally adopted stream, river, lake or shoreline of the Puget Sound.

Students (grades 3-12) participating in these programs gather water quality monitoring data throughout the school year in their respective watersheds. Students also engage in a variety of restoration projects and plantings at their adopted location.

Each spring, the projects culminate in the Student GREEN Congress an event where more than 400 student delegates gather to present their data, discuss water related issues in their communities and generate recommendations for solving problems. This event takes place on The Evergreen State College campus and is sponsored by Evergreen faculty.

Evergreen students volunteer and help facilitate a variety of environmental and water-based workshops, engage with the elementary students at their home institutions,\ and help the school children monitor the health of their watersheds and rivers using chemical tests and sampling for benthic macro invertebrates. Throughout the life of the event, more than 10,000 elementary school students from the region have attended this watershed education event on campus.

“We have all appreciated the opportunity to support environmental stewardship for young people and engage in scientific outreach to regional schools,” says faculty member Carri Leroy. “This program is an amazing opportunity for Evergreen students, and we have loved building these partnerships for the past 25 years.”

Students also attend environmental skill building workshops taught by local resource professionals. Delegates are from schools in the South Sound (North Thurston, Olympia, Griffin and Tumwater School Districts) and Nisqually Watersheds (Yelm, Clover Park, Steilacoom and Eatonville School Districts).

Workshops include a salmon carcass dissection, making bird boxes, getting up close with inter-tidal creatures or stream bugs, shellfish tasting, Native American storytelling, nature journaling, fly casting, live raptors, tree planting, and much more.

Congress concludes with students adopting the Nisqually and South Sound Watershed Action Declaration, which will include activities the students have agreed to participate in to protect and restore their local watersheds. This is a day of sharing ideas, learning from each other, and gaining skills to make improvements in our local watersheds and communities.

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