dscf1660aCitizens for a Healthy Bay’s Junior Bay Ranger Program

By Katrina Landau

In 2003, the Washington State Legislature passed ESHB 1466 that established the Natural Science, Wildlife and Environmental Education Partnership Grant program under the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).   In the 2005-2006 inaugural year, Citizens for a Healthy Bay (CHB), a Tacoma based 501c3 organization, was one of the recipients.
This innovative partnership was created to promote “proven and innovative natural science, wildlife and environmental education programs that include instruction about renewable resources, responsible use of resources and conservation.”

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In 2004-2005 CHB staff partnered with the City of Tacoma to do an intensive educational program about stormwater pollution prevention in one neighborhood in Tacoma based on Social Marketing methodology (see CLEARING, Spring 2006).  The most successful part of this multi faceted educational campaign was the classroom lessons that taught the messages of individual responsibility and ownership of the environment.  In fact, out of all of the different forms of community education, the classroom lessons were rated the “Most Useful” by respondents of a survey sent out to over 5000 households in the area.  As a result, this became the core of the 2005-2006 program, with the addition of a field trip and an optional summer camp type program involving both field trips and service learning.  CHB partnered with 4 Tacoma Elementary schools: Stanley Elementary, Jenny Reed Elementary, Pt. Defiance Elementary, and Lister Elementary.  A total of 575 4th and 5th graders participated in lessons 1-3, and 42 more went through the summer service learning component.

dscf1532Goals of the Program
The goal of this program was to raise awareness amongst elementary age children of the everyday issues surrounding the health of local waters. Further, the goal was to connect students more closely with the impact of stormwater pollution by experiencing first hand how people and animals are affected by pollution. Finally, the lessons brought in the important and unique component of service learning. Service learning is a method of teaching, learning and reflecting that combines academic classroom curriculum with meaningful service throughout the community.

As a teaching method, this program was designed to be taught through experiential education and to integrate meaningful community service with instruction and reflection.  When combined as a cohesive and logical educational series, this program enriched the total learning experience, encouraged lifelong civic responsibility, and reinforced the concept that the children themselves can have a direct impact on the health of Commencement Bay and Puget Sound.

Lesson #1 – “Down the Storm Drain: Where does the flow go?”dscf0698a
The educators explain how water that goes down the storm drain flows directly out to Commencement Bay (or other water body). Much of the pollution that washes down the storm drain can end up hurting our environment and the health of the plants and animals living in it. Students are asked a few questions about the health of the Thea Foss waterway and the Bay itself. The presenters explain how our actions add up and directly affect the water in our neighborhoods and beyond. The game is introduced, where students see how their actions – even just one at a time – can add up to help or harm water quality.

Lesson # 2- “Stormwater Pollution- Bringing it Home.”
Citizens for a Healthy Bay staff delivered the 2nd of a set of 4 “elements” of the Jr. Bay Ranger Program. This exciting and fun lesson was designed to reinforce information taught by the Envirochallengers (Element # 1), and to make the ideas more salient to the children by “bringing them home”.  The specific objective of this lesson was to move the students from the general concept of being environmentally responsible to the more specific idea that they can have a direct impact on the health of Commencement Bay and Puget Sound.  After a brief interactive lesson taught by CHB staff students break into groups and rotate through each of three activity stations.

dscf0696aStation #1: Enviroscape
An Enviroscape model www.enviroscapes.com simulates a “day in the life of Tacoma”.  Each student participates in the lesson by contributing to pollution in the city by simulating 1) washing a car on the street 2) not fixing an oil leak in his/her car 3) walking a dog and not cleaning up after him 4) putting pesticide on crops 5) putting herbicide on weeds and 6) littering in the street.  Then, the students simulate rain with spray bottles and are asked where all of the polluted water from their neighborhood is going.  In this game the students actually watch as all of their “pollution” seeps down into the bay and see the dirty water that animals have to live in.  They are then asked to say one thing they can do to make sure they do not contribute to polluting the water in the bay.

Station #2: Environmentally Friendly Window Cleaner Station
In this lesson, each student first receives a car care kit to take home to his/her parents/guardians. The students are then given the opportunity to make the Earth Friendly Window Washing Solution to be mixed in the “only rain in the drain” spray bottles that accompany the car care kits.  As students rotate through making the solution, the other students in the group have a chance to find their homes on the satellite photograph of the school and surrounding neighborhood.  This offers them the chance to see all the storm drains by their house and see where that water goes.

Station #3: Stormdrain Marking Art Project
Each student gets a sheet of paper with a picture of a storm drain and an outfall on it.  The child has a list of things we would like them to draw, including an outfall, their house, and what lives in the bay.   There are a number of craft items to help them, including stamps, storm drain “stencils” and pictures of sea creatures that they can glue onto the page.  The idea is to have them literally draw the connections between where they live, what goes into the stormdrain, and where it goes.

Lesson #3- Dock stations and Educational trip out onto the Waterway dscf1465a
As part of the third lesson in the series, students undertook a field trip to acquaint them with this important body of water and its unusual inhabitants. The field trip to the Thea Foss Waterway, which also included a boat trip, was designed to create a personal relationship between students and the wildlife in Commencement Bay.
Many of the students this program addressed have only seen the Thea Foss Waterway and Commencement Bay from a distance and few have actually been on these water bodies.  This element, which took place on a floating dock and a leased vessel, allowed students to see up close the birds and fish impacted by stormwater pollution as well as to touch and handle some of the smaller invertebrates.  The itinerary also included a visit to the stormwater outfalls that extend back into their own neighborhoods.

Lesson # 4- Personal Action Plan: The Jr. Bay Ranger Summer Program
DAY 1: Trip to Tacoma’s Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium Owens Beach
Activity 1: Aquarium North Pacific  tank.   This activity introduced the children to both the tools of conducting animal behavior research, as well as offering an introduction to “Habitat”.
• Tank: Observation, Watch an animal for 5 minutes – what is in their habitat? What do they need?
• Reflection:  What is our habitat?  What are our needs?  What temperature do we live at, what do we eat, where do we live, etc.?
• Discussion: Just like we each have specific needs, these animals also have specific needs.  Look at consequences of not having a healthy home or healthy food, etc.

Activity 2:  Owen Beach walk and trash pick up: During this activity, the children had the opportunity to hike through the woods between Point Defiance Zoo and Owen’s beach.  Once they reached the beach, they were given instructions on how to do “The Garbage Story exercise” Children then proceeded to walk the beach collecting garbage as they walked, and writing down what they had picked up.

DAY 2: Participate in a Restoration Activity at Tahoma Salt Marsh (4 hours):
After learning about habitat, the children helped improve habitat for different animals and plants by caring for a restoration site along Ruston Way.  Children got an introduction to concepts such as ecology, animal community, invasive and native species.

• Salmon “Evolution” Game:
In the Evolution game, the children experienced each stage of the salmon life cycle. Each child started off as an egg, and subsequently advanced to an alevin, fry, smolt, adult, spawner, dead, and then continued the cycle as another egg. Each stage was accompanied by an action to aid kinesthetic learning.

• Salmon “Hooks and Ladders” Game: The purpose of this game was to use kinesthetic learning to enhance the ideas of the obstacles that a salmon must overcome in to grow from a smolt to a spawner.

• Restoration Station:
Students completed the following activities:
– Located, identified, and removed invasive plants
– Located and identified native plants and then removed any smaller weeds surrounding the plants roots
– Mulched all native plants and created mulch rings around the plants to ensure proper nutrient supply.

DAY 3: Stormdrain Curb Marking and Trash Pick up (4 hours):
On their third and final day of the program, children divided up into small groups with CHB chaperones to help educate their neighbors about storm water and pollution.  This was an opportunity to pass along what they have learned in class to others.

Plan for Independent Practice:  The Junior Bay Ranger Navigation Workbook activities served as independent practice.  This workbook is designed so that the concepts learned during the lesson would be solidified by writing about the activities and doing complimentary “assignments”.  Completion of this booklet is a necessary component of becoming “Jr. Bay Rangers”.

What did we learn?
This program was an unmitigated success.  Children were not only engaged and interested in the materials, but had so much fun that in many cases they were surprised when they realized that they were also learning something.  The feedback from teachers and parents was also very encouraging and showed that the children were not only learning the concepts and information, but bringing this knowledge home to their families.

The results of this Environmental Education initiative are not surprising.  For years it has been know that children who engage in environmental education, especially outdoors become more excited about learning.  In addition, and as we hope will be borne out as more programs such as this one are funded and delivered in Washington State, students in schools such as these consistently score higher on standardized tests.  CHB hopes to continue this program into the next school year if funding can be secured.


Katrina Landau is the Education and Outreach Director, Citizens for a Healthy Bay, Tacoma WA