by Rob Sandelin
My primary goal as an educator at the Environmental Science School is to create connections between students and nature. I do this because I believe once students have a deep connection to nature, they become advocates, often for the rest of their life. We have lots of time and experiences with nature as part of our program.
An example. We spent several trips a few years ago along a certain creek watching, counting and learning about salmon. We watched a female dig a redd (her nest) and the whole cycle. Every time we went back the kids looked for red girl, as they had named her. During one rainy day the kids noticed a pipe dumping gunky water into OUR stream onto OUR fish. They were outraged. We followed the pipe back and discovered it was a street drain, full of crud and oil from cars off the road. I did not tell them how to feel or act, they did that on their own, based on their connection to that place. After school they ALL met and cleaned up that whole street, then, unknown to me, a bunch of them went to an evening political debate between a couple of candidates for mayor. They stood up in a room full of adults, and demanded to know what the candidates were going to do about the street drains in our town which dump oil and gunk onto OUR salmon stream. They were articulate, bright and passionate advocates.
As far as I am concerned, this is why I teach.
Rob Sandelin is a naturalist and environmental educator who has since childhood spent much of his life observing and studying nature in the mountains of the Northwest. He has served as a park naturalist at Yosemite National Park, Olympic National Park, and Denali National Park. Currently he teaches field skills to student naturalists at the Environmental Education School of the Sky Valley Education Center in Monroe, Washington. He is the author of This Week in the Woods, a series of natural history essays; the Cohousing Resource Guide; and the Intentional Communities Resource Pages website. He lives with family and friends in the Sharingwood Cohousing Community in Snohomish County.