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In October, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Maxwelton Outdoor Classroom!
Twenty years ago, educators, parents, and local experts collaborated to realize the vision of the Maxwelton Outdoor Classroom. What began as an idea to raise salmon in a classroom has grown to provide regular opportunities for hands on science and environmental education to K-8 students from Whidbey Island and beyond! The Classroom itself was dedicated in the Fall of 1997, and has become the vehicle to help educate more than 25,000 students since.
Event photos by photographer and volunteer, Gordon Marvin:
The Whidbey Watershed Stewards organization was honored to be highlighted by Thriving Communities in early 2016.
Please enjoy the wonderful video they created to tell our story. Share it far and wide, because as Thriving Communities says, “the ripples of energy and connection of hope and action throughout our bioregion and beyond has a catalytic effect.”
Many thanks to Ted Ravetz for an intimate Salmon Enchanted Evening at his Maxwelton Valley garden home! Music by Levi Burkle, hand crafted Midnight Kitchen hors d’oeuvres, Ott & Murphy wines, remarks by the lively Dyanne Sheldon, a delicious Janet Hall Pie Auction, and delightful guests combined for a memorable evening!
We’re very proud to announce that Whidbey Watershed Stewards’ Education Coordinator Lori O’Brien, who runs the Maxwelton Outdoor Classroom, was acknowledged by the South Whidbey School District’s three Parent Teacher Student Associations (PTSA) recently.
“Lori has helped raise and educate this whole school district,” said LMS PTSA President Shawn Nowlin in an email. “When we gave her the Golden Acorn Award, she was telling me about seeing the high school seniors and realizing that she has taught them from preschool at Trinity (Lutheran Church) all the way through to school graduation.”
We are so grateful to Lori for her outstanding dedication to environmental education!
Click to read the full South Whidbey Record article.
Salmon Enchanted Evening Invitation Highlights 2015
Smith and Minor Island Aquatic Reserve
We are facilitating a Community Science Research/Outreach Program in Whidbey Island’s own Aquatic Reserve. Funded by the Department of Natural Resources, the study investigates the effect recreational harvesting has on the largest Bull Kelp Forest in the Puget Sound.
Completed Smolt Count in the Maxwelton Watershed. May is the month we set up a sluice box in the stream and collect, count, measure and release the young Coho yearlings as they begin their trek to the sea.
Freeland Wetland Preserve
WWS took full ownership of the Freeland Wetland Preserve early in 2015. Next step, work-up a comprehensive restoration/outreach plan. So far we know that restoration will inform outreach which will include lectures, guided hikes, hands-on educational experiences which will instruct the participant of the methods and science of restoration.
Kicked-off our summer/fall education series, Wetland Wednesdays, at the Freeland Wetland Preserve which enriches participants’ knowledge of the science of restoration and informs them of available opportunities in the future.
Reinstated by Island County for another 3-years as stewards of the Robinson Beach County Park. We have removed most of the scot’s broom and planted shore pines. We are planning another planting later in summer, early fall.
Salmon in the classroom program linked with year-long Outdoor Classroom Field studies
K-7 teachers through WWS Environmental Education Programs
Langley Middle School Marine Science
Six-month oceanographic time series by 6th and 7th grade students at the Langley Marina collecting oceanographic data investigating the relationship of the living and non-living elements of the ecosystem.
In the classroom 7th graders analyzed their ocean data working with visiting oceanographers from University of WA, NANOOS & Orca Network. Culminating oceanographic cruise out of Langley collecting, analyzing and interpreting data with the UW experts!
Coordinated 23 local scientists share their expertise with K-5 students—Students’ favorite day of the year!
These poems were written to the salmon by the school children who had raised them. Many were shared on the shore as the salmon swam off:
Their scales shimmer bright
First the river then the sea
Brightly colored orange
Shiny silver scales
Amongst your darting tail fin
Beautifully you swim
I watched you grow up
and now you’re freedom is near
Goodbye my fish friend
listen close in the forest
Salmon swim, swim, swim
Salmon swim softly
Peaceful, quiet and hungry
Patient to find prey
Salmon we watch grow
Swim up the stream now, freedom
See you soon, small friend
Rick’s Excellent Kelp Harvesting Adventure!
The Aquatic Reserve Citizen Science Committee continues to meet monthly as we develop our ecreational Kelp Harvesting and Outreach Project working side by side with the DNR. The program launches in May so we are in the process of collecting and building equipment like quadrats, tripods, scales and at meetings continue to discuss protocols for our kelp research and strategies for communicating our message of sustainable practices to our harvesters. As I have mentioned in previous newsletters there is very little precedent for this project. The good news is its exciting to be foraging new ground and the bad news is its hard to shake the feeling your designing a program in the dark.
A few weeks ago I glanced at the calendar and realized it was April 20, one of two days in the month with semi good (but not great) minus tides (-1.3 feet) so I decided to grab some of our new equipment and head down to the Aquatic eserve and try my hand at kelp harvesting. My first time as a kelp harvester, I arrived at low tide. My first stop was at Libbey d and to my surprise I saw six harvesters down at the kelp line. (common knowledge Is that no one harvests until -2 ft tide or lower which first occurs late May) I quickly donned my boots, grabbed my quadrat, scale, bucket, knife, license and hat. There was a small 1 to 2-foot swell which made it difficult to harvest the kelp within the quadrat with the boots I brought to the beach (Yes, I got my socks wet). Also, I remembered you have to add weight to your quadrat so it’s more stable in water. I harvested some Alaria and another type of algae that I later identified as feather boa. I made a mental note that the kelp line didn’t seem to extends much passed the low-tide line so calculating the total area of harvestable kelp may not be as hard as we thought.
About a half-hour after low-tide the other harvesters were done and hanging out at the bottom of the stairway to the parking lot with their booty. I walked toward the stairs with my bucket of kelp and stopped to talk. I didn’t see any blatant evidence of over harvesting. They were friendly, wanted to look in my bucket and they spoke very little to no English. They did seem to understand what I said in English. I asked them which kelp they were the most interested in and it was definitely the laria and the bull kelp (Nereocystis). I got the impression that the feather boa I had in my bucket was definitely not a desired algae. One woman spoke some English and ask me how I prepared the feather boa, she offered, in a salad? I gave her a nod and they all smiled quietly, at that point realizing that I was a novice. I got back to my car, drove up W. Beach d. and checked out the other sites. I observed no other harvesters.
Its amazing how just a little bit of information can shine so much light on our project. I feel better about how our outreach program will be received and back in my garage I have already adapted our equipment so it will be more user friendly and help us get the reliable results in our data we are aspiring too. Stay tuned, more to come.
If you are interested in attending our committee meetings everyone is welcome. Next meeting is on: May 18th at; 6:30p, at:
Coopeville United Methodist Church
608 North Main Street
Rick’s cell – (949)726-2713
Rick’s email – email@example.com
May 14, 2015
Our pre-training last week went extremely well. We had biologists Betty and Leal on-site and I know I learned a heck-of-a-lot about kelp and kelp harvesters. We mainly worked on our research technique and strategize our rationale. We practiced using our quadrats, Kelp ID, setting up equipment, etc. At one point, Leal and I went over and chatted with a group of harvesters. One spoke English and they were all very forthcoming with information. The whole day was very enjoyable. As I was driving home I starting to think just how much we still have to learn about kelp and the people who harvest kelp.
July 9, 2015
Another successful day for the Kelp Harvesting/Research/Outreach Project. There was a complete dearth of harvesters last Tuesday, not one in sight, weather was not a factor this time as it was an absolutely spectacular day on the beach. Betty and I noticed that the Alaria and Saccharina (our two most harvested kelps) looked awful, not very appetizing. The kelp had a very friable, slimy quality. At some point during the summer growing season kelp breaks down introducing nutrients back into the ecosystem. Could be we reached that point in the cycle and the harvesting season is over. We will see! We are getting so efficient getting the data for the kelp growth/abundance study that we finished early completing all the quadrats at (-1 foot) and (-2 foot) tide levels.
July 16, 2015
I saw this article and had to pass it along. Funny, we were all munching on kelp at our data collecting site last Tues. I think bacon flavored kelp just might turn me into a serious kelp harvester! Anyway, our kelp study has concluded, to all those who worked so hard to make it a success, a hearty THANK YOU! You will me hearing from me soon about next steps in the Aquatic Reserve. Rick