Last November the Puget Creek Restoration Society piloted the Watershed Adventurers program for 4th and 5th grade classes from the Tacoma Public Schooling System. The activities during the pilot program included three hands-on learning stations: native and invasive plant identification, stream observation, and deciduous tree identification.
This program is based out of Puget Creek Watershed and offers a free, hands-on learning experience for 4th and 5th grade students in the Tacoma/Pierce County schools. It serves as an introduction to the plant and animal life present at the creek and their interdependency on each other.
Rebekah Jurgensen, internship coordinator, for the Puget Creek Restoration Society, shared what she is currently doing with the program, “I am currently responsible for raising the funds for each class to visit. What we are asking from the public is to sponsor a class or classes for the Watershed Adventures Outdoor Education Program. The cost per class for the program is $2,500.00. This would pay for: bus transportation to and from the participating school and Puget Creek; equipment to do the studies and inquiries; tools for the hands-on restoration component; journals and the on-line communication formats for the youth; as well as pay for a coordinator to instruct the students/teachers. Our long-term goal is to raise enough money by Fall 2012 to sponsor 20 schools so that they may participate in the Watershed Adventures Program at Puget Creek.
During the pilot program I taught the plant identification course, which was a lot of fun! We learned what the difference was between an invasive and native plant species and then went on to differentiate between some native and invasive plants that are prevalent at the creek. These are the types of activities that will be taking place at the creek in the Fall when classes come to visit.”
Rebekah shared the best thing about the program, “Personally, I think that hands-on, outdoor education is the best way for kids to learn. I know this from my own experience with interning at the Puget Creek Restoration Society. I never would have been able to absorb all the knowledge I have obtained had I been simply reading out of a text book! With kids, I believe it is no different. If they are able to hold and feel a plant that they are learning about, they are much more likely to remember it in the future. And if they are physically at the creek, learning about the importance of taking care of it, preserving it, I believe they will feel a stronger connection to it and be much more conscious about the decisions they make and the impact it has on their immediate environment. Most importantly, it’s fun to be out of class and running around in the woods! Who wouldn’t love that?”
Rebekah discussed what many people may not know, “I think that most people don’t even know that we are offering this program in the Fall and we want to get the word out to local families, kids and teachers in our community that this program is available! If we are able to raise enough funds to jumpstart the program, it will be available free-of-cost to the participating schools.”
She mentioned how the program is unique compared to others, “There are many outdoor/environmental education programs that are available out there. The Watershed Adventurers program is unique in the sense that it is easily accessible because it is a watershed within the city. The creek is absolutely beautiful and Scott and all of the interns and volunteers have put (and still do) put very, very hard work in to restoring the creek. In many ways, it has completely transformed. I think that visiting Puget Creek and participating in the program will show the children that with time, dedication and a real connection to the environments we depend on in order to live and thrive, we can help to restore natural spaces back to a healthy balance.”
When asked who she recommended to be part of the program, Rebekah replied, “This program is for fourth and fifth grade classes in the Pierce County area. We would like all schools that are interested in participating to feel free to contact us. I think that it is important for me to note that, as of this moment, we have enough funding to sponsor one class’ participation in the Watershed Adventurers Program and we are aiming to host nineteen more…this can only happen with the community’s financial support.”
Rebekah stated: “We are always accepting donations to this program, which can be sent to: 702 Broadway # 101 Tacoma, WA 98402. We also have a WePay donations account set up specifically for the program and it we will be accepting donations until July. Donations can be made at: https://www.wepay.com/donations/watershed-adventurers-program_1 .
For more information about the Puget Creek Restoration Society, please visit: http://www.pugetcreek.org/. For more information about the Watershed Adventurers Program, please visit: https://www.wepay.com/donations/watershed-adventurers-program_1.
Rebekah concluded: “We will be sure to let folks know as fundraising events pop up over the summer for this program.”
By: Carly Calabrese, staff for Tacoma.com