News & Events

K-12 Educational Field Program is Growing Fast

Author: Jefferson Land Trust | 10/24/19

Field Trip to Duckabush Oxbow and Wetlands Preserve

Ninth grade students from Quilcene on field trip to Duckabush Oxbow and Wetlands Preserve. Photo by Jeff Taylor.

The thank you notes and poems arrived soon after Port Townsend first and second graders visited Illahee Preserve to learn about salmon. Inside were messages filled with warmth and gratitude.

Sophia's TY Letter

Local first and second graders sent poems and thank you letters after their field trip to Illahee Preserve.

“Thank you for the experience of being in the forest,” Addie H. wrote. “Thank you for saving the salmons,” said Laverna. “I loved being a salmon in the game,” wrote Sophia. “I wish everyone would keep the sea clean.”

Because our work is designed to endure, an important area of the Land Trust’s focus is on K-12 education programs. These programs involve indoor and outdoor place-based learning and strive to deepen student  love for and understanding of our local land and waters. 

Fall is a particularly exciting time to be outdoors on our preserves because of salmon returning up the rivers and streams, and our seasonal educational programs focus on salmon streams and these iconic fish. They also set the stage for a winter and/or spring follow up field trip, which extends and deepens student learning.

Preserve Manager, Carrie Clendaniel, who leads our youth educational programs, worked with volunteer “Scotty” Scott to put together a series of lessons called “Salmon in the Trees” for multiple grade levels. Our seventh grade lesson plan forms a portion of North Olympic Salmon Coalition’s (NOSC) year-long “Real Work Real Learning” program. Carrie and Scotty worked to formalize these lesson plans and enhance them with extended classroom activities and a variety of additional field observations and data collection/experiment activities to reinforce learning. The lesson plans can flex depending on how long the field trips are and the grade level of the students.

Salmon Obstacle Course

Students confront many of the challenges faced by salmon on the Salmon Obstacle Course.

This fall represented our biggest seasonal field experience reach in terms of both the number of grade levels and school districts served. In just three short weeks, Jefferson Land Trust hosted six different K-12 field experiences. Port Townsend first, second, and seventh graders all visited the Land Trust’s Illahee Preserve, as did seventh graders from Chimacum School District. Ninth graders in Quilcene and fourth and fifth graders from Brinnon visited our Duckabush Oxbow and Wetlands Preserve. 

According to Carrie, “seeing salmon return is such a quintessential part of living here, so it’s exciting to see the students, teachers, and parents having this experience each year. It’s really quite mesmerizing.” 

“One of the best parts for me,” continued Carrie, “especially with the first and second graders is having the kids return multiple times. In the spring of their first grade year, they release juvenile salmon they’ve raised in school and then they come back in the fall as second graders to see adult salmon returning to spawn.”

“It’s exciting to see how happy the students are to be there. They know the preserve, are excited to be back again, and have memories of and connections with a special natural place.”

The field experiences encompass a wide range of activities. For example, the ninth graders from Quilcene School District participated in salmon observation activities, toured a potential salmon restoration site, and performed macro-invertebrate sampling of the Duckabush River’s water (macro-inverterbrates are a big part of the diet of juvenile salmon). Additionally, they discussed potential careers in land conservation, land management, and land restoration.

Juvenile Bald Eagle

A juvenile bald eagle made an appearance at Duckabush Oxbow Wetlands Preserve during the two field trips. Photo by Jeff Taylor.

The Jefferson Land Trust Salmon Obstacle Course is a favorite with all of the students, no matter what age. In it, the students have to navigate many of the challenges faced by salmon during their life cycle: low oxygen zones, log jams, and a host of predators.

A highlight for all of the students who visited Duckabush Oxbow and Wetlands Preserve was seeing a juvenile bald eagle who watched their activities with interest for a short time during both field trips.

A tasty bonus for the seventh graders was an onsite cooking demonstration and tasting organized by NOSC and presented by Jefferson Healthcare’s chef, Arron Stark, at Illahee Preserve. He brought the necessary ingredients and equipment, went through the whole process of cooking salmon with the kids, and then they got to taste the finished dish.

Salmon Poem

One of the poems shared with the Land Trust after a recent field trip.