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Water Conservation in Your Garden

Come for a glass and a class by Anza Muenchow at the Roaming Radish at 4:30 p.m.  on Wednesday, March 5. This Pub talk is an opportunity to learn how to protect the Whidbey Island aquifer and Puget Sound using safe agricultural methods. Learn about soil building, compost and irrigation related to water conservation in agriculture. South Whidbey Tilth, a member of Whidbey ECO Network, is promoting the theme “Whidbey Waters Are in Your Hands” through a Puget-Sound-Starts-Here mini grant. The program is free, but attenders are encourages to enjoy a beverage, dinner or a snack at the Roaming Radish restaurant, located at 5023 Harbor Hills Drive, off Honeymoon Bay Road in Freeland. 

For more information contact Prescott at president@southwhidbeytilth.org or call 360-544-2278.

Other resources are http://whidbey-eco.net.

Whidbey EcoNet Partners Collaborate to Enhance Outdoor Instruction Whidbey Students 

ECONet-logo-color-website-LRBroadview Elementary in Oak Harbor has a vision to provide each student an outdoor experience.  For many years, Joyce Swanson, Principal, has taken her school’s first-fifth grade students on a fall excursion to the Maxwelton Outdoor Classroom operated by Whidbey Watershed Stewards.

Over 8 days of instruction, with support from the Broadview PTA, the school has regularly bussed approximately 400 students to South Whidbey where they have participated in half- day field investigations at the Outdoor Classroom and half-day explorations of Community Park’s nature trails. Adding on-site learning at the beach has always been in Ms. Swanson’s long-range plans.  Whidbey EcoNet partners embraced her vision and more.  In 2012 she gained instruction on Reduce, Reuse, Recycle at the South Whidbey Transfer Station. This year, she also gained a half-day of on-site beach instruction for classes at Maxwelton Beach. EcoNet partner, WSU Island County Beach Watchers, were the first point of contact in 2012. Barbara Bennett of Beach Watchers and Janet Hall of Waste Wise met with Ms. Swanson early in September 2012 to discuss ideas.

Timing is everything – Beach Watchers’ training schedule conflicted with an immediate response.  But Waste Wise was able to take the opportunity to provide instruction in fall 2012. Waste Wise assembled a team of Waste Wise and Beach Watcher volunteers to host classes at the South Whidbey transfer station.  As one student said: “Who would have thought trash could be so cool?”  (Janet may want to add more….)

This year, Beach Watchers reached out to EcoNet partners, SEA and Whidbey Watershed Stewards to prepare for beach instruction.  Instructional content and lesson plans for 5 days of 90 minute blocks of time with 25, third-fifth grade students were planned collaboratively.  Initial meetings shared concepts, discussed logistics and anticipated lesson plan details.  Each partner’s expertise was instrumental in assembling a plan for the coming students.

This September, 250 third-fifth grade students came in waves of 50 to Maxwelton Beach over 5 days for instruction.  Beach Watcher volunteers and staff along with SEA and Whidbey Watershed Stewards provided on-site instruction. Many of the students had never been to the beach.  Students were invited to take in this different setting when they were asked: “What do you see, hear, smell, feel that lets you know this is a beach?”  Some found it beautiful but “stinky”, others relished all aspects, all were eager to explore. Weaving the scientific method into their explorations, students conducted two experiments, one measuring tidal movement during their visit, the other comparing the “floatability” properties of fresh water vs salt water. They learned about plastic litter and its long-lived damage to the beach environment.  Students were introduced to marine plankton (in discussion and through a plankton song) and viewed living samples through microscopes.  Of course, they also had some time to run around on the beach and just explore it. Looking ahead, Ms. Swanson at Broadview with Beach Watchers, Waste Wise, SEA and Whidbey Watershed Stewards anticipate rotations through each component year by year.

According to Ms. Swanson, a value for hands on science and community partnership is a driving force for these programs “At Broad View, we value hands-on science activities in the field for our students so they can experience the environment as they learn.  Students tell me that having a personal experience while learning makes it real.  “You really believe it when you can pick up the seaweed and turn over the rocks yourself.”   Many of our elementary students have limited opportunities to spend time in the outdoors at our parks and beaches, so as a school, we look for ways to get them out there to learn real science and see how it applies to their lives.  The activities provided by the Beach Watchers, Service, Education & Adventure (SEA) and Whidbey Watershed Stewards were engaging for our students and helped them learn more about the Salish Sea, which is so important to us as Whidbey Islanders.

As noted by Whidbey ECO Net Coordinator and SEA Co-Director Susie Richards, “This pilot has provided EcoNet partners an opportunity to truly model the key elements of the ECO Net mission – education,  collaboration and outreach.  We look forward to expanding these collaborative efforts as we implement our theme this year of “Whidbey Waters are in Our Hands.”  EcoNet partners anticipate building on this pilot experience, together and independently, to maximize marine focused educational outreach on Whidbey Island.

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