Category Archives: General

Outdoor Classroom Turns 20!

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:

For more information, please see this recent article from the South Whidbey Record. And also this article from the South Whidbey Record

Honored at Thriving Communities

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.” 

Whidbey Watershed Stewards from WhidbeyTV on Vimeo.

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Salmon Enchanted Evening: Many Thanks!

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!




The Golden Acorn Award!

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

Accomplishments 2015

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.

Smolt Count
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.

Wetland Wednesdays
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.

Robinson Beach
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.


Youth leadership
Salmon in the classroom program linked with year-long Outdoor Classroom Field studies

Professional Development
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!

Science Day
Coordinated 23 local scientists share their expertise with K-5 students—Students’ favorite day of the year!

Salmon Poems

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


Beautiful salmon

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


Kelp Harvesting Adventure

April 20th

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 –

There is a door on the back of the church (basement level). You will see a rock keeping the door open. Photo Apr 20, 12 57 56 PMPhoto Apr 20, 12 45 12 PMPhoto Apr 20, 12 38 42 PMPhoto Apr 20, 1 00 00 PM

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

Kelp Project Ends at Smith & Minor Island Aquatic Reserve
We completed our kelp study this month at the Smith and Minor Island Aquatic Reserve (SMIAR). We are still analyzing the data and I will report back to you on those results later this Fall. Looking back, one of our greatest accomplishments was the creation of this unprecedented study. There have been kelp studies over the years but none that I could find that focused only on kelp harvesting and attempted to assess impact of a specific human activity on a specific habitat. Our team created and refined from scratch all the research protocols and data sheets for both the science and social aspects of the study. Remember, this habitat nourishes forage fish, schooling fish, rears juvenal salmon, supports avian populations, invertebrates, just to mention a few. 
Also, I was really gratified by the close partnership that formed between WWS, Department of Natural Resources (DNR)  and Island County MRC. We all pulled together to accomplish a relatively difficult task by pooling our resources and expertise. I know that our program participants learned much from the expertise present supporting our project. We all learned a lot about kelp, human behavior, research techniques and communication. 
On a personal note, I know I learned the most by just showing up every few weeks and watching the kelp evolve through the spring from rapidly growing (several feet a day) — maxing out on the productivity scale… to its more humble state, last week, literally melting, decomposing — introducing important nutrients back into the ecosystem. Somehow, when I witness first hand these type of natural cycles in nature I feel more connected.
Thank you everyone who participated, Rick
More research at SMIAR coming this Fall. If your interested in getting involved or getting more information, send me an email and I will at you to that list. 

Design Our New Logo!

Whidbey Watershed Stewards is dreaming of a new logo- are you the one who will design it for us?!

We seek a creative, straightforward, descriptive new logo design that is recognizable and promotes our organization. Please read below for more details regarding our logo design, this contest’s rules, and submission requirements.

How to Enter our Logo Contest

The contest runs May 1, 2015 through June 1, 2015. After directly contacting the contest winner by e-mail, WWS will announce the winner through our e-newsletter, website and other social media platforms.

To have your logo designed considered for this contest, please

  • Submit your entry to with a subject line of “Logo Contest”
    • Include your name, e-mail address, mailing address, and phone number in your e-mail
  • Submit your entry in its original source file, high resolution .pdf and .jpeg
  • Submit entry in color and greyscale

About WWS

Whidbey Watershed Stewards is a 501c-3 organization providing watershed education, restoration, and research on Whidbey Island. Our slogan is “Connecting water, land, wildlife and people.” We provide elementary and middle school field experiences at our Outdoor Classroom in the Maxwelton Valley and at the Langley Marina. At our Freeland Wetland Preserve we host educational talks for adults and children. Our restoration properties include Robinson Beach in Freeland and the Miller Property in Maxwelton and the Old Clinton Creek. We are currently developing and completing a kelp foraging research project in the Smith and Minor Island Aquatic Reserve in Central Whidbey Island.

For more information on our organization visit:

Logo Requirements


  • A simply designed and clean logo that is recognizable, easy to remember and cost conscious in printing.
  • Easily reproducible
  • Design remains crisp in variety of sizes (widget to poster, pencil to t-shirt) and formats

Main Symbol of Logo:

  • Prefer geometric or abstract symbol(s)
    • Symbols representing the watershed such as land, water (fresh/salt), native plants, terrestrial animals, birds, fish

Exact Text:

  • Text not necessary in symbol, but required in logo design
    • Text can appear below, above, around, etc., the symbol
  • Prefer for organization name “Whidbey Watershed Stewards” in text, but “WWS” acceptable


  • Sans Serif preferred
    • Suggestion…100% Free downloadable font options available on

Logo Colors:

  • Simple earth/water colors- blues, greens, browns
  • Limited colors- remain cost-conscious in printing and reproducing
  • Avoid color gradients

Contest Details

Whidbey Watershed Stewards Board and Staff will select the winning logo submission. Our winning contestant agrees that Whidbey Watershed Stewards may publish their logo and name and may use both for advertising campaigns and/or marketing materials in the future.


Contest winner will receive

  • Recognition in WWS e-newsletter, on our website and our social media platforms
  • $100.00 cash
  • Bragging rights!

More detailed rules and expectations…

  • WWS reserves the right to extend all deadlines associated with this contest to ensure receipt of a sufficient number of entries.
  • Logos cannot contain copyrighted material. YOU, as contestant, must create and edit your logo submission. Logos may not include previously published images of licensed images.
  • WWS may alter, modify, or revise the logo as it sees necessary to achieve its promotional goals, and may use any of the submissions in future promotional campaigns.
  • The winning contestant agrees to bestow all ownership rights, including all intellectual property rights to the logo, to Whidbey Watershed Stewards.