Tribal teachers set out to help design an integrated curriculum around the canoes of Pacific Northwest Native American tribes.
Article by Suzie Boss
Click here to view article in PDF format: Canoe Curriculum PDF
Tribal teachers set out to help design an integrated curriculum around the canoes of Pacific Northwest Native American tribes.
Article by Suzie Boss
Click here to view article in PDF format: Canoe Curriculum PDF
Traditional Ecological Knowledge
An Outdoor Environmental Learning Classroom for the students of Suquamish Elementary School
By Melinda West
There is a Salish legend passed down by the First Peoples of the Pacific Northwest that explains the origin of the cedar tree and why it has been referred to as: “Long-Life Maker”. For over four-thousand years this slow-growing, shade-and- water-loving evergreen has resided amongst the fir, yew and hemlock trees, in forests along the edges of Puget Sound. The legend explains that the cedar trees were once generous people who looked to the welfare of others in their community and responded to their needs. I’d like to tell you a story that makes me believe the spirit of this legend is alive and flourishing today.
My relationship with Suquamish Elementary school was rekindled in the spring of 2000. This was the public school my own two, now adult sons had attended. For over a decade, I had spent many hours volunteering in each of their classrooms. On this occasion I was invited as a consultant because of my work as a natural fiber weaving specialist. This visit was to hear about an innovative idea for a project that would combine science, social studies and art education. The proposed project would involve converting a barren, fenced-off drainage catchment area on school grounds into a pond and native plant garden.
Pulling into the auxiliary parking lot, I glanced straight ahead at this desolate space, off limits to students, yet taking away up to one third of the play area. These depressions in the landscape surrounded by locked chain-link fences are commonly seen throughout the Kitsap Peninsula, in Washington State, where I’ve resided for over a quarter century. They are required for surface water purification. I tend to look away from these sites and search for alternative focuses which hold some beauty — the chirping sounds of children at play, verdant leaves unfurling, even the bright yellow of dandelion weeds.
Six years later, as I drive into that same parking lot at Suquamish Elementary, my eyes are drawn to cattail leaves dancing over a shimmering pond. I see delicate, green stalks of the Northwest sweetgrass sedge growing in the bog. Both plants have been used for centuries as weaving materials by the First People of this place. There is a boardwalk and gravel trail that follows the perimeter of the pond. A rain shelter built of yellow cedar is reminiscent of the long houses that once stood nearby. A small cedar tool shed, and wooden benches are nestled in between adolescent hazelnut, vine maple, and western red cedar trees. Shrubs, ferns and ground covers mingle below the wild roses, red currants, and willows.
There is a class of third graders using this space when I arrive. Little faces peak out from behind a bird blind woven with grapevines from a local vineyard. Other students are sitting on boulders perched near the pond, glacial remnants generously donated by a local landscape company. At this moment the students are quietly engaged, making observations and entries in their pond journals. They are smelling and touching plants, writing, measuring, and sketching. In a little while, I will be accompanying a class of fourth graders the fifty odd yards away from the building, through the woven arbor gate and under the twig sign that says: “Welcome”.
“In traditional Native American cultures, art was not a separate pursuit. Beauty and utility came together in objects of everyday use to reflect a way of life and an aesthetic that respected the relationship people had with their environment.”…Shaun Peterson, Salish Artist, 2004 SAM exhibit” Song, Story, Speech”.
As a plant fiber artist, teachers invite me to present ethnobotanical knowledge about Pacific Northwest plants to their students. This provides content for social studies and science requirements, while the techniques for using the plant fibers provide physical activity, math and art skills. The Basket Marsh and outdoor classrooms of its kind are living libraries and laboratories. They contain unlimited resources for teaching every subject students need to learn.
What I have to offer as a teaching artist is most effective in an environment where students can see, touch, smell, hear, and sometimes even taste, the subject-matter. Again and again, I have witnessed that this first-hand experiential learning of natural science and culture gives lasting memory and meaning to students. The virtues of the western red cedar can easily be appreciated by children, when they are given pieces of the leather-like inner bark to experiment with as they sit next to young growing cedar trees. Non-conventional learning environments like the Suquamish Basket Marsh give opportunities for students and classroom teachers to meet and interact directly with artists and other specialists from the community.
Today I will model my craft, and students will get to experience weaving with cattails that they have helped to grow and harvest from their Basket Marsh. We will share stories, sing a weaving song, and then weave a mat or make some rope in order to experience first hand the ingenious ways that cattails and other native plants have been used by the First People of this place.
“Every part of this country is sacred to my people. Every hillside, every valley, every plain and grove has been hallowed by some fond memory or sad experience of my tribe.”…..Chief Seattle, speech at the Pt. Elliot Treaty signing, paraphrased by Dr Henry Smith, 1854.
Twelve thousand years ago, a thick layer of ice covered the Pacific Northwest. As the ice melted, glaciers formed and slowly carved out deep channels that the water filled. Forests grew, and the land that was left became covered with plants. In some origin stories, native North American storytellers have told that the First People were once plants and animals who later took human form. Those people began to live in villages along the shorelines, and since then their descendants have been living here too. Long before contact with explorers, trappers, and settlers, the place near the present day town of Suquamish was highly populated. Everything needed to sustain a rich community and cultural life was present in the forests, meadows, rivers, at the water’s edge, and in the sea.
“Children learned from an early age not to pluck too much or ruthlessly destroy the valuables of the earth. They learned responsible, caring behavior both through stories, metaphors and focused instruction at opportune moments and through observation, emulation and experience.”…Nancy Turner, from THE EARTH’S BLANKET, 2005.
Prehistoric survival was dependant upon the knowledge of place accumulated over time: geography, seasons, cycles, weather patterns, plants, and animals. In recent times, this knowledge, reflected in the First Peoples’ relationship with the flora and fauna, is being referred to as Sacred Ecology or Traditional Ecological Knowledge. This body of information has been passed down through the oral tradition from one generation to the next, through stories, songs, ceremonies, and through the practice of traditional technologies, skills, and arts derived from the environment.
In Lushootseed, a language spoken by many of the First People of the Puget Sound area, the word for Suquamish is d’suq’wub which means “place of clear salt water”. The city of Seattle was named in honor of Chief Seattle, the Duwamish and Suquamish leader, who in the mid 1800’s protected his community from the raiding parties of other tribes. Later, in hopes of further protecting his people from the influx of settlers and a new government hungry for land and resources, he signed a treaty with the United States government which resulted in the city of Seattle being built upon traditional Duwamish Tribal land. Chief Seattle’s burial site is only a few blocks away from Suquamish Elementary school. Every August, the Suquamish Tribe sponsors a huge gathering of Intertribal-Nation festivities and canoe races known as Chief Seattle Days, honoring this important leader.
Nearly one quarter of the students at Suquamish Elementary school, are descendants of First Peoples indigenous to North America. After many years of misunderstanding by impinging dominant cultures, the perspectives and approaches to education espoused by some of the traditional First Peoples’ teachings are starting to be better understood and valued. The holistic ways of thinking about the Earth, organizing information, and connecting knowledge to daily life are as important today as ever.
“In our culture all things are living….everything has life.”…Dr. Martina Whelshula, Colville Tribes, Benchmarks Panel, WAEYC Conference, 10-27-06.
Traditional teachings are imbued with lessons for sustainable living and are intrinsically linked to place. Relationships — with people, plants, animals, and all the elements, are emphatically important. Now the Suquamish Basket Marsh is providing opportunities everyday for these types of lessons to touch children of all cultural backgrounds within the school and community. The Lushooteed name for this outdoor classroom is: gelk’ali. It means “place of weaving”.
“Weaving has always been part of the community in the First People’s traditional culture here in this place. Now it is part of the healing for our people. We are stitching and mending the culture back together.”….Darlene Peters,PHD, counselor, teacher, Suquamish and Port Gamble S’Klallam, gelk’ali dedication speech, May 2002.
The idea for the gelk’ali came from Ron Hirschi, a fisheries biologist who worked for many years with the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe. He is author of over fifty books for children, many that combine real life pictures of animals with accurate scientific information. While appearing as a guest for the school’s May 2000 Young Authors Day, Mr. Hirschi shared with students, projects from other schools including the restoration of a wetland at Pickerington Elementary in Ohio. He suggested creating a pond out of the storm water retention area at Suquamish Elementary. His idea was that by planting it with native plants traditionally used by the local First People, especially plants used for traditional basket weaving, there would be an opportunity for tribal families to become more involved at the school. Tribal members living in the community could be invited into classrooms to share cultural experiences and knowledge with all the students. Mr. Hirschi also shared how students, at nearby Seabeck Elementary, formed an after school group called the “Salmon Team”. He helped this team partner with parents, the S’Klallam Tribe, and Trust for Public Lands, to acquire an entire estuary after research by the Salmon Team showed the presence of endangered salmon in its waters.
“As teachers we should be striving to give kids moments of greatness. How can we help students have these moments?”…Jan Jackson, personal interview, 9-13-06
After 18 years of teaching, Jan Jackson, a librarian at Suquamish Elementary school, was considering retirement. She felt she was losing an important connection with her students. Like many classroom teachers today, Ms. Jackson recognized the challenge of engaging students with a broad spectrum of learning styles from various cultural and economic backgrounds. She noticed that many students were spending more and more time in front of video and television screens. She also saw the pressures put upon teachers to spend more time teaching to a system of standardized tests, leaving less time to develop relationships with students for building life and learning skills. At the same time, children were having fewer opportunities to be outside, fewer chances to be observing nature, less time to be exploring and responding to the natural environment through the arts and sciences.
“Direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development – physical, emotional, and spiritual….it is a potent therapy for depression, obesity, and ADD…it improves standardized test scores…it develops skills in problem solving, critical thinking, decision making…and creativity”… Richard Louv, The Last Child in the Woods, 2005.
When a need is recognized and a community cares, a good idea can be set into motion as long as there is someone like Ms. Jackson to see it through. She first approached Principal Joe Davalos with the concept of the outdoor classroom. “It helps to have a principal that lets people follow their heart,” she says of Davalos. Other teachers became interested, and a committee was formed which met through the summer to plan a Basket Marsh curriculum. Relating the curriculum to career education helped the school apply for funds from their school district’s vocational department to get them started.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead, anthropologist 1901-1978
With the principal, teachers, students, parents, and the Suquamish Tribe on board, it was time to see if there was community support for the Basket Marsh. For the next two years Ms. Jackson spent many hours in outreach, bringing students with her to attend school board and other community meetings. Individuals, families, corporate and business sponsors, all stepped forward to provide funds, services, equipment, materials, and the invaluable hours of labor and expertise required. Approval from the school board, consulting with the water district, permits from the county, all needed to be researched and secured.
The Suquamish Tribe partnered with the school, providing ongoing funding for programs and projects at the gelk’ali. They helped develop the plan for the marsh, provided soil testing, water flow analysis, ground surveys, plant recommendations, and consultations by hydrology and fisheries professionals. The county departments of Waste Water Management and Solid Waste, as well as the local public utility district’s Education Department, have given continual support.
Institutions of higher learning have been important resources for the gelk’ali. Each year, many students from Suquamish Elementary spend four days at IslandWood’s School Overnight Program, receiving an intensive environmental education experience. An ongoing partnership has formed with this nationally acclaimed environmental learning center, and inspiration for many of the class service projects have come from this relationship. Members of IslandWood’s staff and some of their graduate students have helped with improvements at the gelk’ali, and have been involved in follow-up teaching. The National Wildlife Foundation and Cornell University’s department of Ornithology’s “Classroom Feeder Watch Program” have also enhanced environmental education and science curriculum.
As director of the pond project, Ms. Jackson credits the whole community with building the gelk’ali. Students, teachers and staff, PTA, school district personnel, county employees, the Suquamish Tribe, biologists, carpenters, scientists, authors, specialists, garden clubs, the local Rotary, civil engineers, architects, landscapers, artists, area businesses, parents and volunteers — all saw the need and understood the benefits.
“I want kids to get their hands dirty, and not be afraid to make a mess.” …Jan Jackson 9-15-06
Known as the “Pond kids”, these 4th-6th graders fill out applications at the beginning of each year in hopes of gaining a position on the Student Advisory Board. This extracurricular group of 25-30 students meets weekly with Ms. Jackson and the volunteer docents. The Pond Kids have been involved in all aspects of the development of the gelk’ali, from research, to fund-raising, to planning and coordinating Earth Day assemblies. Early on, the students helped design and plan the pond. After meeting with a parent who showed them how to take topographical measurements of the site, they built a 3-dimensional scale model to help with their presentations to the School Board, sponsors, and to other community groups. They cleared out the blackberries and Scotch broom, and helped rake, dig and plant. Now the Pond Kids continue the ongoing physical labor at the gelk’ali, restoring habitat and maintaining the plants.
“Before the pond was built the grass was brown and now it’s green. I enjoy knowing I’m making a difference in the school.” …Winona, 5th grader, 2002
All the students at Suquamish Elementary utilize the gelk’ali for learning. Each student has a pond journal they use for documenting their observations at the gelk’ali throughout the year. Along with each class, every year a new group of Pond Kids implement one or more service projects that connect the gelk’ali with the whole school. One project inspired after a visit to IslandWood has been recycling lunchroom waste. The Pond Kids researched vermaculture, and agreed upon the size needed for the worm boxes based upon their measurements of daily school lunch food waste. The boxes were built by a parent volunteer. The students made instructional posters, gave presentations to classes, and volunteered to stay in from recess to help collect the food waste. Now the school saves district money since there is less trash. At the same time, the worms decompose all that food waste into useful compost for the plants at the gelk’ali.
As well as learning important aspects of being responsible stewards of the land, the Pond Kids are encouraged to be active citizens and communicators. They have written letters to sponsors, articles for school newsletters, and corresponded with foundations and public officials. In the course of these activities they have won local, regional and national recognition for their environmental leadership. Each week the Pond Kids report back to their classrooms what they are leaning at the gelk’ali. To help build relationships between grade levels they also report weekly to their “buddy classrooms” in the primary grades. Each year all the students at Suquamish Elementary are learning about environmental stewardship first hand.
“The marsh is like a puzzle that fits into the big picture. The plants protect the pond from harm. The trees grow, give shade, and hold together the pond with their strong immense roots. The dirt absorbs nutrients and, sometimes, the pollution. The animals in the pond make it a happier place for us.” …Tyler, 4th grader, 2002
“An intimate participation leaves a memory as long as you are on the earth.”…Bruce Miller, the late Skokomish Spiritual Leader and Cultural Teacher, from Teachings of the Tree People, 2005 video produced by Katie Jennings and IslandWood
How can teachers find the support they need to step outside of the metaphoric boundaries of classrooms today? In conjunction with standardized learning and testing, is it within the realm of possibility that community-born projects for learning could be used by more teachers and children, on a daily basis?
Imagine every elementary school in the United States being able to tell a story like this. Not identical, of course, but a story of how their schools, students, parents, and communities could find authentic ways to meet the educational needs of their children. The native plant garden and outdoor classroom is just one possibility for providing an atmosphere for student-driven, inquiry-based learning. At the gelk’ali, as teachers become more comfortable embracing this resource, the natural history of Suquamish can come to life for their students. Differing cultural perspectives can be explored giving all students the opportunity to examine their own cultural roots and traditions. The scientific and artist processes can be taught –honing observation skills, exploring and asking questions, experimenting, designing solutions, researching, making measurements, learning techniques and skills, documenting results, reflecting upon them, and finding new questions!
Throughout the development of the gelk’ali, the school, tribe, and community have proven to be devoted advocates for promoting diverse cultural perspectives and approaches to education. They have diligently created a place of learning that enhances the educational opportunities for students with various learning strengths, and engages them through methods that mainstream classrooms cannot offer.
“Working with the Suquamish Tribe…planting the grasses the indigenous peoples worked with for their basket making, takes teaching to the highest level: Every time we educate our children on the rich diversity that exists in this country, we educate ourselves.” …Jay Inslee, US House of Representatives, Washington State Congressional District # 1, Letter for the Dedication of the Galk’ali 4-02
Outdoor classrooms, such as the Suquamish Basket Marsh, broaden educational opportunities for a diverse group of students. They give non-conventional teaching specialists the opportunity to use their respective art forms as vehicles for teaching science, math, social studies, language, history, and the arts. Concepts difficult to learn from books alone or while sitting inside at desks, become illuminated, when students are given opportunities to relate them to natural living systems on a daily basis.
Many caring individuals have built this special place of learning. Around the pond, the cedar trees are growing taller. As in the ancient legend of the cedar tree, each sword fern, camas bulb, huckleberry and Oregon grape plant – reflect a piece of a story of someone’s generosity. When people care about their children’s education, even a small puddle on the school grounds can become a lesson about the transformative power of a community working together.
History/Stages of Pond Development
Stage I – 2000 – Planning
Stage II – 2001 – Construction
Stage III – 2002 – Maintenance, Improvements, Service Projects
Stage IV – 2003 to Present – Maintenance, Ongoing Service Projects
Suquamish Garden Club
Kitsap County Solid Waste Department
Kitsap County Storm Water Management Department
Public Utilities Education Department
National Wildlife Federation
President’s Environmental Youth Award, 2003
Kitsap County Commissioners’ Earth Day Award, 2002, 2006
Grand Prize, Ivy Sculpture Contest, Bainbridge Gardens, 2004
Suquamish Tribe Appendix X, 2000-present
Lowe’s Toolbox For Education Grant, 2006
Gifts from many assorted local business and individuals
Traditional Native American Tribal Weavers
Natural Fiber Weaver
List of Service Projects by Classes and Pond Kids
Science Fair Projects
Building a copper water gauge for measuring water level at pond related to rainfall
Weaving a branch and vine bird blind
Earth Day Celebration assemblies
Native plant tiles with imprint and scientific, common and Lushootseed names
Native plant studies, drawings over the seasons
Cattail weaving projects
Ivy animal sculptures
Classroom Bird Feeder Watch, Cornell University
Participate in making film, Teachings of the Tree People, sponsored by IslandWood
Recycled material baskets
Contribute drawings for IslandWood field Guide: ALL MY RELATIONS.
Cedar gathering bark with Suquamish Tribal Elder
Cedar basket weaving
Mason Bee house
Bird feeders and houses
Programs with Tribal Elders
Field testing a weaving project for a book by Bruce Miller and Nan McNutt
Participation in a Nature Conservancy Education Video
Bird Observation Garden
For More Information Contact:
Ron Hirschi www.ronhirschi.com
Watch for the new book: We all Live Downstream. These are the words of Holly Cocoili, Environmental Biologist for the S’Klallam Tribe. Her words and the concept inspired a new book by that title written by Ron Hirschi, and including the Suquamish Basket Marsh, Pickerington Pond in Ohio, and Seabeck Salmon Team projects on Hood Canal, WA.
Suquamish Environmental Education Boosters, (501(c)(3) www.seeboosters.org
Jan Jackson, librarian, Gelk’ali Director : email@example.com
Melinda West, fiber artist, article author : firstname.lastname@example.org
IslandWood Environmental Learning Center www.islandwood.org
Much of the credit for this article comes from the inspiration I’ve received from reading the works of Distinguished Professor Nancy J. Turner, author of the recent books: THE EARTH’S BLANKET – TRADITIONAL TEACHINGS FOR SUSTAINABLE LIVING, and KEEP IT LIVING – TRADITIONS OF PLANT USE AND CULTIVATION ON THE NORTHWEST COAST OF NORTH AMERICA; along with Richard Louv’s book: THE LAST CHILD IN THE WOODS – SAVING OUR CHILDREN FROM NATURE-DEFICIT DISORDER.
Melinda West, of Indianola Washington has been practicing the art of natural fiber weaving since 1985. She has studied with many native and non-native weavers and artists, the foremost being Ed Carriere of the Suquamish Tribe. Melinda enjoys sharing her love of natural history, environmental stewardship, and indigenous cultures through the teachings and the practices of traditional fiber arts.
Eelgrass as Teacher
Integrating Tradition, Science, and Learning on the British Columbia Coast
by Nikki Wright
ith a respectful hush, students squat on the sand or sit on logs on the warm beach, listening intently to Trish speaking about the way her indigenous Coast Salish community harvested herring roe in Deep Bay, B.C., Canada when she was ten. You can hear a fir needle drop in the forest behind her as she recollects her memories of watching the shoreward migrating herring , so thick, she says, they were “like little bits of shining glass in the Bay.” The families would collect the roe from cedar boughs placed in the bay and store it in long storage bins, where she would race past and swipe some to eat before Grandmother would find her out.
These high school students were in a very special site, a Gulf Island on the British Columbia coast, learning first hand the traditional stories of Native peoples harvesting and storing the riches of the sea. During their time on this beach, they would explore eelgrass beds, which are also used for herring spawn sites, in the interface between ocean and land. They found myriad critters crawling and scurrying between the blades. This exploration of the mysteries of sea life so close to the shore would lead them further down the road of revelation and possibly to a lifetime of marine discoveries.
Shortly after I had listened to Trish on that extraordinary beach, I accompanied a grade four class on a beach within the boundaries of Victoria on Vancouver Island. With small class groups alongside me, I walked gingerly in gumboots in an eelgrass community at low tide. Once again, I had a glimpse into these wondrous undersea gardens, watching the small kelp crabs and juvenile seastars creep along the emerald green blades, and witnessed small flounder gliding under the sand. A whole world opened up before us. This is the magic of eelgrass in quiet bays and coves and estuaries.
SeaChange Marine Conservation Society, a community conservation group on Vancouver Island in British Columbia presents these kinds of opportunities in the spring, summer and fall each year to schools at all levels. Many times, eelgrass (Zostera marina –one of the two native species of eelgrass on the BC coast) is a gateway of learning during our time on the shore and in the estuary. This is the story of my experience with eelgrass as a teacher. The following are suggestions for exploring a seagrass community for Grades 1-6.
When I first started marine naturalist work in Victoria, Canada, I was a SCUBA diver diving for sea creatures and demonstrating their behaviour to elementary and middle students. Most of these young people were more familiar with facts about coral reefs and sharks across the world than with the sea cucumbers, Great Blue Herons and pipefish of their local marine world. This introduction to local sea animals was a first step, but unsatisfying to me as a marine educator. I wanted to teach ecology. I needed to find ways for young people to fall in love with the intricacies of an easily accessible natural system (Capra, 2005). I believed, and do so even more strongly today, that children learn best from the natural world when they are actively engaged in it (Krapfel, 1999). Eelgrass has afforded those opportunities through classroom, field and community activities. Students will observe ecological connections. The underwater blades offer viewing windows into complex food webs close to shore (Phillips, 1994). Students can extend their understanding of ecological relationships by investigating land use activities affecting these food webs. Teachers can help students understand the importance of citizen science in protecting shores with maps of the boundaries of eelgrass meadows made by their students.
The Biological Diversity within Eelgrass Meadows
Eelgrass is a simple enough looking plant, but it has great importance to living systems, both human and non-human. It evolved from fresh water and migrated to the ocean in relatively recent geological time. Eelgrass shoots act like crab grass or strawberry plants in that they grow most successfully by rhizomes, or underground roots. One plant in a large meadow can be the parent of thousands of shoots, as they clone in muddy sandy substrates in shallow protected bays and estuaries in most temperate marine areas of the world. The intricate weaving of the underwater blades afford shelter for salmon from the hungry foraging of Bald Eagles, and the minute algae on the blades feed the small crustaceans called copepods that swim near the muddy bottom which in turn feed the outcoming salmon fry from freshwater streams. The plants are so popular with salmon that eelgrass meadows have been compared to salmon highways in the Pacific Northwest.
The high biological diversity available in eelgrass systems provides food for a diversity of organisms in several ways. In the Trent River delta on Vancouver Island, for example, 124 species of birds have been identified and includes over 38,000 individuals. Forty eight per cent were observed using the intertidal eelgrass (Z. japonica) of the delta for feeding, foraging or preening at some time during the year (Harrison and Dunn, 2004).
For younger grade levels, it is fun to explore eelgrass meadows for juvenile creatures – small crabs, seastars, and flounder for example. Because the weaving of the eelgrass blades provides good hiding places from predators, the beds are resplendent with new life.
The matted rhizomes help capture sediment and decreases erosion (Phillips, 1984) which is important for shoreline homeowners. All these benefits of this underwater vegetation can be demonstrated to school children in their classroom and outside on their local beach or estuary. It takes little or lots of time, depending on how far and deeply you as an educator would like to extend the lessons. This article assumes that you have the opportunity to visit your local eelgrass more than once over the school year.
I thought in 1993 I had found a simple way to teach ecological systems to children. Thirteen years later, after all the SCUBA dives, seining, kayaking, tide pooling, and mapping and restoring of eelgrass, I am still entranced with this nearshore plant that makes up underwater emerald forests.
A network of eelgrass conservationists along the entire coast of British Columbia maps eelgrass beds and locates potential restoration sites. Many of these individuals come into their local schools to help teachers with exploring the mysteries of eelgrass. They bring resource books with plenty of photographs, maps, stories, colouring books, overhead drawings and graphs of food webs found in eelgrass habitats, and eelgrass plants found along the beach. You can provide library books, web sites, stray eelgrass plants and help students explore ideas on how they would like to investigate their local eelgrass beds.
In preparation for the first field trip, students can formulate questions they wish to answer during their field trip, and discuss their hypotheses in small groups. For example, one group of fifth graders might formulate the following: “If young crabs use eelgrass for shelter, then they will be found in areas hidden from their predators.” They then could create a data sheet with spaces to record how many and what kinds, sizes and locations of crabs they observe.
Students should be reminded that they are visiting the living rooms (or habitats, depending upon the age group) of intertidal animals and plants that are already stressed from exposure to the sun. Examples of good beach manners are:
• Turn rocks back gently after lifting them
• Fill in any holes when digging
• Wash hands in the tub of saltwater next to the touch tanks before touching animals and plants
• Handle animals and plants gently.
• Avoid walking on plants and animals
• Do not remove attached animals or plants.
• Leave the plants and animals in their natural homes (habitats).
It is important that students be comfortable and safe and be respectful for the life they will encounter on their field trip. Sunscreen, extra socks, drinking water, towels and gumboots or shoes that can get wet or muddy. They can add their own beach etiquette rules.
Field Trip Activities
Students can become familiar with eelgrass ecology during a preliminary field trip lasting usually an hour and a half. Prior to the actual field trip, the class can be divided into three groups. We usually have three groups of ten students each.
The first beach station is the ”Habitat Aquaria.” We use two glass 33 gallon aquaria placed within a wooden frame and supported by two wooden supports. We fill the first aquarium with sand and “living rocks,” drift eelgrass and crab and chitons, sea cucumbers, small seastars, sand dollars, clams and the like collected by SCUBA divers. We place rockier substrate in the second aquarium with drift kelp and other seaweeds, urchins, living rocks with tunicates and coral algae living on them, limpets, turban snails, and crabs to demonstrate what lives beyond the shallow eelgrass meadows. Simple rubber tubs can be substituted for glass aquaria. Laminated field guides are distributed so that the students can identify and observe animals on their own before they are told what is in the aquaria. Buckets and tubs surround the aquaria are filled with seaweed and kelp to shade the animals that can be touched by the students under supervision. A hand washing tub full of saltwater ensures that sunscreen on the students’ hands will not harm the animals in the touch tubs.
The second station can be a “Detective Game.” Using the field guides students are asked to find and observe, without collecting, animals that have hard shells, or live in a community, or plants that have knobs growing on their blades. They convene after 15 minutes or so to share their findings. Detective questions could be ones such as:
• Two different kinds of edges on seaweeds.
• Evidence of an animal having eaten something.
• Three seaweed leaves with different textures (smooth, prickly, etc.)
• Four different odors/smells.
• Five different sizes of barnacle.
• Six different kinds of birds on the shore or near-by
• Seven human activities on or near the shore.
• Remember eight different sounds and repeat them to the group
• Name nine different ways people are using the shore or waters near-by.
The third station can be a “Making Art” display. On a large tarp, students at all grade levels enjoy as a group making a giant sea animal or an eelgrass or kelp underwater forest.
Beach seining in a protected bay or estuary is another way to acquaint students to the eelgrass community but it is crucial this be done in a very sensitive manner, as juvenile marine animals such as salmon fry and young flounders cannot tolerate exposure out of water or touch. When done under the careful supervision of an experienced leader, however, students are thrilled with the diversity of the collection from seining after they have helped haul the net shoreward. The specimens can be collected carefully and kept in cool seawater tubs for a short duration for observation by all.
Beach specimen presses can be done easily with moist heavy paper and cardboard between the paper. Students collect drift (unattached) eelgrass, seaweeds and flat pieces of kelp and design patterns onto the heavy moist water. The sheets are then placed between two wooden boards and tied together with a belt. The collection should be placed in an area that is well ventilated in the classroom. In just a few days, the students can open the press and discover their dried creations. Cards, posters and other art work can then be taken home or displayed.
Extension of Field Activities
A second field trip can be designed for mapping a local eelgrass bed during the springtime on a very low tide (less than 2 metres in B.C.). The methodology for mapping can be practiced in the classroom. Before that however, it is essential that students know why this particular habitat is important to map. After they have become familiar with its ecology during their preliminary field trip, students can interview community members, including fishermen, First Nations members and old time residents on what they remember of eelgrass in the local waters. This information can then be brought back to collate into maps.
On southeast Vancouver Island, one of the eelgrass mapping coordinators consulted with First Nation Elders and old time fishermen to find out where the eelgrass “used to be” in a large estuary. She brought that information to a classroom of 5-6th graders, and asked them to map the areas on nine baseline maps. The class then combined the maps to compare where the meadows were historically sited and where they grow presently. They discovered that a large area was impacted by log storage activities, but they also discovered that local community restoration efforts were underway to bring back the meadows where the log leases were no longer used.
Mapping can be as simple as following the upper boundary of an eelgrass bed and noting on a cadastral map where the bed begins and ends. Or students may want to map the upper boundary using a GPS unit and then measure the density of the bed using a transect line and quadrats. The scientific protocol that has been accepted in British Columbia for mapping eelgrass can be found on the Seagrass Conservation Working Group web site (Seagrass Conservation Working Group web site, 2002).
To show students how to measure eelgrass shoots within a meadow, you might try using a demonstration eelgrass grid, which takes little time to make. I suggest you find mesh material (we use the plastic mesh used to protect SCUBA tanks) with small (approximately 1⁄4 inch) spaces to thread green ribbon in dense patterns. Provide a quadrat (see below) and a ruler so that students can practice measuring the width and length of the blades. Thicker ribbon can be used to represent reproductive flowering plants.
It is important that they know before they map on the beach that reproductive shoots are ephemeral. If flowering shoots are not noted while mapping, the class might return the following year and observe that the bed they measured is less dense, and conclude that it has been damaged. Zostera marina is a perennial plant (Z. japonica is most often annual), but densities can vary from year to year because of the timing of reproduction and the fact that they shed their leaves up to seven times in one year (Durance, 2002). If the class decides to monitor one bed over several growing seasons, these are important factors for accounting for different shoot densities over time.
Considering the worldwide extent of seagrasses is estimated at 44 million acres, but that much of the extent has not been mapped, (Green & Short, 2003) there is a lot of mapping of eelgrass to be done everywhere! It is not difficult for students at all levels to inventory local seagrass beds whether they be Zostera marina or Z. japonica or another species of seagrass in your area of the world.
On many shores of southern British Columbia, both eelgrass species grow close to each other. We are having fun creating useful and easily memorized limericks to help us decipher the difference between the two species, as on some shores they look remarkably similar. One example of a “limerick in process” is:
Marina, like green onions,
it’s sheaths they do tear,
While japonica, like celery,
it’s sheaths pry open, to bare. (Sanford, 2006)
Students can make up their own rhymes and songs to identify species of eelgrass that they then can pass on to the next class for the following year.
Eelgrass meadows are naturally highly dynamic systems, often changing from year to year or from season to season, reflecting changes in the environment (Den Hartog, 1971) At one school, fourth graders are monitoring both species (Z. marina and Z. japonica) growing adjacent to each other over several years, to note competition or changes between the two. They pass on the monitoring data onto the next class before the next mapping expedition during the following spring.
What is needed
One quarter metre and one metre square quadrats can be easily made from aluminum or plastic pipe. These frames are set upon a 60 m transect line (polypropylene rope is easiest to use) at metre points randomly selected. The transect rope can have tape tied securely at one metre marks with the designated metre number marked on each tape. On the way to the site, students can call out numbers from 1-30, a recorder can write them on a data sheet (see illustration). Other equipment needed is GPS units or compass (for triangulation for site location), data sheets and pencils attached to clipboards, field trip supplies (sun screen, drinking water, first aid kit, snacks and hats), and binoculars. Make sure students are wearing gumboots or shoes or sandals that can withstand some saltwater.
To ensure success, visit the site yourself before the field trip so that you have a clear idea how to direct the students. Since eelgrass shoots tend to grow at different lengths and widths according to where they are located in the intertidal zone, it is important to place the 60 m transect line parallel to shore well within the range of the zone you may want to select beforehand.
For example, this could be a description of the bed before you:
Zone 1 is a narrow band 8 metres wide, located in the low intertidal and shallow subtidal. The zone is characterized by a sparse population of short eelgrass (length 25 cm, density 32 shoots/m2). Zone 1 blends into Zone 2, at a slightly lower elevation. The bed in Zone 2 is 50 metres in width. The majority of the bed is located in Zone 2.
During your preliminary visit, you may have decided to have the students map only one zone with their 60 m transect. By the end of the exercise, they might feel more confident to map more of an area at a later date. The pressure of the incoming tide dictates how much time is available to map one zone. It is best to arrive with your class at the site about an hour before the tide begins to recede. During this time, the students could identify the zones of eelgrass on the beach. You may have already visited the site at low tide, so you can help direct the discussion.
For a class of 30, you may want to organize students into groups of three: In each group, one student is the recorder, one the counter of shoots, and one measures one shoot in the right hand corner of the quadrat for width and length. Each group will have one third of the 30 numbers they randomly selected before they arrived on the beach. The recorder in each group makes sure the numbers are located accurately so there are 30 sets of measurements by the end of the mapping exercise. When the tide has returned, the data sheets are collected and returned to the classroom. Over time students will notice changes in the density and width of the eelgrass bed they mapped and will have lively discussions as to why that is.
Synthesizing Classroom Studies with Field Experiences
The classroom activities and field trips can be integrated across curricula. Students can photograph their art displays on the beach tarp and combine them with the pressed plant specimens to include on a wall mural in the classroom. They can write stories about the eelgrass animals they observed on the beach and combine facts about the creatures’ biology with fiction about their lives in the meadow. They can use math to calculate Leaf Area Index (mean eelgrass leaf length and width determined from sampling one eelgrass shoot in each of 30 quadrats) for determining the productivity of an eelgrass bed, and research the history and geography while they find local stories about the locations and uses of this seagrass, including Indigenous traditions.
The table below illustrates how lessons can focus on science processes (Gough & Griffiths, 1994).
Students at all grade levels can participate in restoration of eelgrass as part of a community effort to restore damaged fish habitat. Since 2000, in Tod Inlet on southeastern Vancouver Island, community members of all ages have completed five eelgrass transplants under the guidance of a local conservation group, a scientific advisor in partnership with provincial and federal agencies. Over the past four years, community conservation groups in 22 communities on the 27,000 km coast have involved students and families on mapping and restoration projects. This level of involvement can start simply with one person committed to a plant in one place, with equipment such as gumboots, an inexpensive tub showing students eelgrass critters, rope and a square of aluminum and pencil and paper.
Maps as Community Connectors
It has been estimated that as much as 80% of the pollution load in the ocean originates from land based activities (NPA, 2007). After researching its history and constructing maps, students might conclude that their local eelgrass meadows are not as dense or as extensive as they were, even as recently as 10-20 years ago. The maps they have created can be used to influence decisions affecting the shoreline, such as the construction of cement seawalls or the creation of riparian set backs to offset the erosion effects of seasonal storm events. Students’ maps can be displayed at a local council meeting, at festivals, in brochures and in presentations to other schools or community associations.
On the BC coast, we are making eelgrass a household term, because these maps created by people of all ages have heightened awareness of the importance of this crucial underwater plant community and have been included in regional atlases, official community plans and shellfish aquaculture plans and First Nations treaty negotiations. Knowing that their data collection has far reaching influence, even fourth graders will take special care for accuracy.
It has been estimated that approximately 222,000 acres of seagrasses worldwide have been lost in the last decade (1990-2000) (Green & Short, 2003) because of development, forestry and agricultural practices, dredging and hardening of shorelines (construction of cement seawalls), to name a few.
As students become more familiar with their local eelgrass meadows, teachers might want to facilitate discussions with their students about why eelgrass habitats are so important on the global scale. Students could establish research teams around such issues as the role of seagrasses in global respiration (amount of carbon and oxygen released and absorbed into the atmosphere), the impact of eelgrass habitat losses with decreasing world fisheries resources, the role of seagrasses and mangroves in conserving shores during extreme weather events, and the connections between land use activities and nearshore environments and about their own responsibility in caring for eelgrass habitats.. They might conduct their research through interviews with scientists within the community as well as by using the Internet. As their understanding increases from the local to the global, they can take their information to other classes within their school, and demonstrate their findings through a multi-media event or by taking another class to the beach at low tide to demonstrate their knowledge. The beach then becomes a laboratory to learn about biology, zoology, ecological patterns and ultimately about the responsibility of humanely living in the global biotic community. We as educators can help our students face environmental challenges by encouraging them to take the time to observe, reflect, ask questions and find answers within their community. Eelgrass meadows offer one way into that window of inquiry.
Capra, F. (2005). Speaking nature’s language: principles for sustainability. In Stone, M.K. & Barlow, Z. (Eds.), Ecological Literacy: Educating our children for a sustainable world (pp.19-29). San Francisco: Sierra Club Books.
Den Hartog, C. (1971). The dynamic aspect in the ecology of seagrass communities. In Thallassia Jugoslavica, 7 (1), 101-112.
Durance, C. (2002). Methods for mapping and monitoring eelgrass habitat in British Columbia. Vancouver: Environment Canada.
Gough, R.L., & Griffiths, A.K. (1994). Science for Life, Toronto, Harcourt Brace & Company.
Green, E.P. & Short, F. (2003). World atlas of seagrasses. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Harrison, P.G. & Dunn, M. (2004). The Fraser Delta Seagrass Ecosystems: Importance to Migratory Birds and Changes in Distribution. Chapter 15: (pp. 3-4) In B.J. Groulx, D.C. Mosher, J.L. Lutemauer & D.E. Bilderback (Eds), Fraser River Delta, British Columbia: Issues of an Urban Estuary, Geological Survey of Canada Bulletin 567.
Krapfel, P. (1999). Deepening children’s participation through local ecological investigations. In G.A. Smith & D.R. Williams (Eds.), Ecological education in action: On weaving education, culture, and the environment (pp. 51-53). Albany, New York: State University of New York Press.
Phillips, R.C. (1984). Chapter 4: Components of the eelgrass community-structure and function. In The ecology of eelgrass meadows in the Pacific Northwest: A community profile (pp. 34-56). Seattle, Washington: Seattle Pacific University.
Phillips, Ronald. C. (1984). The ecology of eelgrass meadows in the Pacific Northwest: a community profile. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service FWS/OBS-84/24. 85 pp.
Sanford, D. (2006). Personal communication.
The web site for more information on the educational, conservation and restoration activities of the author’s organization is: www.seachangelife.net
This article was originally written for the Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research, Konan University, Kyoto, Japan. It is reprinted here with permission.
CMOP: The Best Environmental Education Program You’ve (Probably) Never Heard About
Coastal Margin Science and Education in the Era of Collaboratories
by Vanessa L. Green, Nievita Bueno Watts, Karen Wegner, Michael Thompson, Amy F. Johnson, Tawnya D. Peterson and António M. Baptista
nterdisciplinary science is needed to make big decisions when it comes to complex and fragile ecological environments such as the Columbia River estuary. Effective communication of that science is necessary to engage students and to work across scientists, educators. policy-makers and the general community. For these reasons, the Center for Coastal Margin Observation and Prediction (CMOP) has developed a “coastal margin collaboratory,” which brings together sensor networks, computer models, cyber-infrastructure, people and institutions to better understand the Columbia River coastal margin ecosystem as a whole (Baptista et al. 2008).
CMOP scientists study the Columbia River and transform the openly shared data and tools into a better understanding of current conditions and into the anticipation of future trends from increasing climate and anthropogenic pressures. Many types of users access CMOP data for their own needs and/or collaborate with CMOP on joint scientific and educational efforts. Through the collaboratory, CMOP enables a common understanding among interested groups such as natural resource managers for local, state, federal and tribal agencies, enabling effective discussions and long-range planning.
WHAT ARE COASTAL MARGINS?
Coastal margins, broadly defined as the interface between land and ocean, contain important and highly productive ecosystems. They often mitigate the negative impacts of human activities from local to global scales, for example ‘filtering out’ excess nutrients that enter watersheds from fertilizer applications. Coastal margin environments are naturally variable because of tides, seasons and year-to- year differences in the forcing from rivers, oceans, and the atmosphere. Ecosystems adapt to that natural variability, but are often less well equipped to adjust to major shifts caused by population growth, economic development and global climate change. CMOP seeks to understand how biological and chemical components of the Columbia River interface with and are affected by physical processes, with the ultimate goal of predicting how they might respond to climate change and increased regional development.
A recent study (Frontier Economics Limited 2012) estimates that the world’s ten most populated river basins account today for l0% of the global gross domestic product, and that by 2050 that share will grow Io 25%, which will be more than the combined gross domestic product of the United States, Germany and Japan. This type of growth could be ecologically devastating, locally and globally, should it not be managed in a perspective of long-term sustainability and with the support of sound science. The datasets and predictions provided by the CMOP collaboratory can serve as useful examples that can be “exported” to other similar river and estuary systems worldwide.
THE COLUMBIA RIVER-TO-OCEAN ECOSYSTEM
The Columbia River watershed extends across seven states in the United States and two provinces in Canada, and contributes about 70% of the freshwater input to the Pacific Ocean between San Francisco and Juan de Fuca (Barnes et al. 1972). Big decisions are needed to determine policy about the hydroelectric dams, protection and regulation of the migratory salmon, and changes in water quality such as ocean-driven estuarine hypoxia and acidification. All of this is set in the context of continued population growth, economic development and climatic change-and amidst a complex regulatory environment that includes the Endangered Species Act, a federal treaty between the U.S government and Native American tribes, and a soon-to-be renegotiated treaty between the U.S. and Canada.
CMOP science has already led to the identification of previously unrecognized environmental issues, from a benign but ecologically relevant seasonal red water bloom in the Columbia River estuary (Hertfort et aI. 2012) to the development of seasonal and severe ocean-driven estuarine hypoxia (Roegner et al. 2011) and potential acidification- and is showing how those apparently distinct processes are tied together. CMOP science is also contributing to an understanding of anthropogenic and climatic changes to estuarine and ocean processes, which affect salmon habitat and life cycle.
THE CMOP EDUCATIONAL PATHWAY
Progress towards our scientific goals has opened exciting opportunities to entrain a new and diverse workforce in coastal margin science. CMOP offers an educational pathway that includes a broad range of age-appropriate activities for students and teachers. Our pathway includes short courses; camps; sustained professional development programs for teachers; curricula for high school classes; individualized research experiences through high school, undergraduate and teacher internships; interdisciplinary graduate curricula through Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) and affiliated degree programs at partner universities; and lifelong opportunities for scientists and natural resources professionals to incorporate outcomes of CMOP science in their activities and decision-making processes (Figure 2).
Teachers and informal educators engage with CMOP in a variety of ways. Teachers access data through user-friendly modules that can be used to plot time series and explore correlations between estuary variables. As an example, teachers could design an experiment that demonstrates how red water blooms influence dissolved oxygen levels, using CMOP’s models to explore various scenarios. CMOP offers a regularly updated activity archive on the CMOP website (Science Activities and Curriculum URL). Lessons are designed for adaptability between age groups and data are appropriate for math, science, and social science classrooms. These lesson plans align with the essential principles of Ocean Literacy and the Next Generation Science Standards (Ocean Literacy Guide URL) and were generated through an interactive teacher professional development workshop. Teachers can engage in individualized internships of their own, conducting original research within CMOP teams and incorporating their experiences into their classroom curricula.
A three-year collaboration of the Oregon Coast Aquatic and Marine Partnership (OCAMP) consisting of CMOP, the Lincoln County School District, Hatfield Marine Science Center, Oregon Sea Grant, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife/Oregon Hatchery Research Center, the Oregon Coast Aquarium, and the Bureau of Land Management’s Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area aimed to provide teachers with the tools needed to carry out meaningful field experiences and inquiry driven learning while improving ocean literacy during sustained, year-round professional development colloquia as well as summer workshops. A follow-up program, entitled the Oregon Coast Regional STEM Center, extended OCAMP’s partnership to include Tillamook School District, Western Oregon University, and a variety of local businesses and agencies, and seeks to support teachers in their use of problem-based learning to improve student outcomes in STEM disciplines through engagement and the incorporation of 2lst century skills. The latter program is being carried out in a blended model of professional development, with in-person and web-based activities. CMOP can also engage with an entire school community through the CMOP- School Collaboratories (CSC) program. Cohorts of teachers from CSC partner schools can engage with CMOP to develop an integrated curriculum that emphasizes an inter-connected environment (Hugo et al. 2013).
THE VALUE OF A SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY CENTER
The structure of the National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center program (NSF STC) has greatly enabled the development of this educational pathway through the decade-long investment in exploratory yet rigorous, potentially transformative science. lt is this structure that allows CMOP to expose students to a multi-disciplinary approach, engaging scientists from a broad range of relevant fields and from several collaborating universities, as well as practitioners from many state, federal and tribal agencies and from industry. The longevity of the STC investment has also contributed to our ability to effectively engage in sustained efforts to broaden participation among Native American, Alaska Native (Bueno Watts and Smythe 2015) and other groups underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) disciplines.
The synergy among anchoring academic partners (OHSU, Oregon State University and University of Washington, in the case of CMOP) is critically important to the success of a STC. Also critical is the engagement of regional stakeholders, which offer a natural, realistic, enriching and often pressing context for our science and education programs. For instance, Native American tribes of the Columbia River have historically been active and effective stewards of the land, water and natural resources in the basin. The Columbia River lnter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC) has partnered with CMOP to identify potential threats to salmon and lamprey through investigation of factors that influence habitat quality. This collaboration has effectively engaged several Native American students in the CMOP education pathway and has also educated non-Native students on tribal cultures and natural resource management strategies.
DEVELOPING THE COASTAL MARGIN WORKFORCE
CMOP students are engaged at all levels of the collaboratory. They participate in the development of sensors and models, and take active part in oceanographic cruises that might range from research to mariner-training vessels, autonomous underwater vehicles (Figure 3) and even kayaks (Rathmell et al. 2013). CMOP students, from high school to graduate, conduct research projects that relate to important biological hotspots, attempting holistic descriptions of their underlying physics and biogeochemistry that cover gene-to-climate scales. Students learn, shoulder-to-shoulder with researchers and practitioners, how to characterize, predict and inter-relate processes driving estuarine hypoxia and acidification. plankton blooms, and the biogeochemistry of lateral bays and of estuarine turbidity maxima (ETM)-turbid water regions located at the heads of coastal plain estuaries near the freshwater/saltwater interface. CMOP students also gain an understanding of broad topics that provide context to CMOP research science initiatives, such as global nutrient cycles, climate change, managing natural resources, mitigating natural hazards, and protecting fragile ecosystems.
Within the curriculum or with their mentor teams, students conduct fieldwork in the Columbia River estuary and in the coastal waters of Oregon and Washington using a variety of approaches, ranging from simple river-front water sampling from a dock to participation in major research campaigns aboard University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS) vessels. Students gain hands-on experience within laboratories, using state-of-the-art equipment such as imaging flow cytometers (FlowCAM), an Environmental Sample Processor (ESP), a Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth Sensor (CTD), or a Scanning Electron Microscope. Students also gain exposure to the “Virtual Columbia River,” a data-rich simulation environment that offers multiple representations of circulation and ecological processes, including their variability and change across river-to-shelf scales (Virtual Columbia River URL). The models that form the Virtual Columbia River simulate estuarine conditions, enabling predictions of changing physical properties (tides, currents, salinity and temperature) and biogeochemical cycles (e.g., nitrogen and carbon) important to ecosystem management. Comparisons between field observations and model simulations allow for continued learning and refinement of the process.
INCORPORATING CMOP SCIENCE INTO THE CLASSROOM
Curricula available on the CMOP website combine elements of coastal oceanography, environmental microbiology, biogeochemistry, computational sciences, and information technology. Student participants in K-12 activities have continued working with CMOP, ‘graduating” to more sophisticated, longer-term participation as undergraduate interns. Likewise, undergraduate interns have continued their research by matriculating into the CMOP-affiliated M.S./Ph.D. Environmental Science and Engineering degree program offered through the lnstitute of Environmental Health (IEH) at OHSU. IEH graduates have gone on to related careers in academia, private research, and with related federal and state agencies. To date, CMOP has served over 800 K-l2 students, over 70 teachers, over 100 undergraduate students, and has graduated 28 M.S. and Ph.D. students. CMOP students have graduated from the Environmental Science and Engineering Program at Oregon Health & Science University; the Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Program at Oregon State University; the Computer Science program at Portland State University; the Marine Estuarine Environmental Sciences program at the University of Maryland; the Computer Science program at the University of Utah; the Physical Oceanography Program and the Biological Oceanography Program at the University of Washington. Students who have engaged in the CMOP Education “pathway” have become citizen scientists with a nuanced knowledge of coastal-margin science issues, and many have gained expertise and skills that have enabled them to contribute to a growing professional workforce in coastal margin science.
For middle- and high-school students, CMOP offers classes. day-camps and high-school internships in partnership with Saturday Academy, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing hands-on, in-depth learning and problem-solving activities. Past topics have included microbiology, marine biology, oceanography, and ocean technology. The curriculum is designed to enable students to easily identify the importance of coastal-margin related issues to their own academic interests and personal lives.
Undergraduate interns join CMOP mentor teams, which include a “Frontline Mentor” and a “senior Scientist.” The Frontline Mentor-typically a graduate student, staff member or post-doctoral fellow-establishes a project relevant to one or more CMOP research initiative. The Senior Scientist mentor provides guidance and ensures academic caliber. Over the course of the ten-week program, interns gain autonomy within their mentor teams as they gain contextual knowledge and skills. lnterns regularly interact with each other and with other CMOP participants through professional development seminars encompassing scientific themes, career opportunities and scientific ethics. lnterns visit sites along the river from Bonneville Dam to downtown Portland and to the mouth of the Columbia River estuary, to gain a first-hand understanding and appreciation of the complex interactions of biological, chemical, and physical processes. lnterns document their work through a daily lab notebook, a weekly blog (Undergraduate lnternships URL), a final presentation and a synthesizing paper. lntern research projects have been thoroughly incorporated into CMOP research; interns have co-authored CMOP publications in peer-reviewed journals (Publications URL) and have presented at national and international conferences (Presentations URL).
The CMOP Education program seeks to make full use of the resources available to this NSF STC to enable a wide range of teachers, students, and other users to learn more about and contribute to place-based knowledge of coastal margins. The University of Washington’s Office of Educational Assessment regularly evaluates the effectiveness of our program. Evaluations include surveys and focus groups with each participant cohort as well as follow-up surveys for longitudinal data. Data analyses demonstrate that high school and undergraduate participants in CMOP programs have increased interest in STEM education; increased confidence in their ability to engage in STEM research; enhanced relevant technical and professional skills, and, for undergraduate students, clarified research foci both within their degree programs and related to their decision of graduate programs. Eighty-seven percent of undergraduate survey respondents who obtained bachelor degrees went on to matriculate into STEM graduate programs, 4O% in fields related to their internships. All of these graduates agreed or strongly agreed that “Being part of the [CMOP] summer internship strengthened my application to this graduate degree program.”
CMOP is primarily supported by the National Science Foundation, through cooperative agreement OCE-O4246O2. Crant CEO-I034611 extended our CSC program to Native Alaskans.
Baptista, A., Howe, B., Freire, J., Maier, D., & Silva, C. T. (2008).
Scientific exploration in the era of ocean observatories. Computing in Science & Engineering, l0 (3),53-58.
Barnes, C. A., Duxbury, A. C., and Morse, B. (1972). Circulation and selected properties of the Columbia River effluent at sea. ln: The Columbio River Estuory and Adjocent Oceon Woters: Bioenvironmental Studies, edited by A.T. Pruter and D.L. Alverson. Seattle: University of Washington Press, pp. 71-80.
Bueno Watts, N. & Smythe, W F. (2013). It takes a community to raise a scientist:A case for community-inspired research and science education in an Alaska Native community. Current: The Journal of Morine Educotion 2B(3).
Frontier Economics Limited. (2012). Exploring the links between woter ond economic growth: A report prepared for HSBC. London, England: Frontier Economics Limited.
Herfort, 1., Peterson, T. D., Prahl, F. C., McCue, L. A., Needoba, J. A., Crump, B. C., Roegner, C. C., Campbell, V., & Zuber, P. QO12). Red waters of Myrionecto rubrq are biogeochemical hotspots for the Columbia River estuary with impacts on primary/secondary productions and nutrient cycles. Estuories ond Coqsts,35 (3), B7B-891.
Hugo, R., Smythe, W., McAllister, S., Young, B., Maring, B. & Baptista, A. (2013). Lessons learned from a K-’12 geoscience education program in an Alaska Native community. Journal of Sustainability Education,5 (SSN 2-51:7452).
Ocean Literacy Cuide URL http:,/www.coexploration.orgl ocean literacy/documents/Ocea n LitC u ide_LettersizeV2.pdf
Presentations URL http://www.stccmop.orglknowledge_transfer/presentations
Publications URL http://www.stccmop.orglpublications
Rathmell, K., Wilkin, M., Welle, P., Mattson, T., & Baptista, A. (2015). A very smart kayak. Current: The Journal of Marine Education QB)3.
Roegner, C. C., Needoba, J. A., & Baptista, A. (20I). Coastal upwelling supplies oxygen-depleted water to the Columbia River estuary. PLoS ONE, 6 @), e18672.
doi:1O.137 1 /journal.pone.00l 8672
Science Activities and Curriculum URL http://www.stccmop.org/education/teacher/activityarchive
Undergraduate lnternships URL http://www.stccmop.org/education/undergraduate
Virtual Columbia River URL http://www.stccmop.org/datamart/virtualcolumbiariver
Vanessa L. Green M.S. serves as Director of Student Development and Diversity at the NSF Science and Technology Center for Coastal Margin Observation and Prediction. Having earned a M.S. in Higher Education Administration she has focused her career on broadening participation and increasing engagement, persistence and retention among first-generation and underrepresented students in high school, undergraduate and graduate programs. She served as a founding faculty member and Dean of Students at the King George School in Vermont and served as a member of the Board of Trustees at Marlboro College. She currently serves on the Education and Outreach Steering Committee for the Center for Dark Energy Biosphere lnvestigations (C-DEBI).
Nievita Bueno Watts Ph.D. is a geotogist, science educator and Director of Academic Programs at the NSF Science and Technology Center for Coastal Margin Observation & Prediction. She conducts research on broadening the participation of underrepresented minorities in the sciences and serves on the Board of Directors of the Geoscience Alliance, a national organization dedicated to building pathways for Native American participation in the geosciences.
Karen Wegner MSW was rhe first Director for K-12 Education for the NSF Science and Technology Center for Coastal Margin Observation & Prediction. She brought years of experience as a wildlife biologist and environmental educator to CMOP. Along with education partners Saturday Academy and the SMILE Program she developed K-12 programs initially offered at CMOP. She credits the success of the K-12 program to the fantastic support offered by CMOP researches and students. Karen is now a Palliative Care Social Worker and Program Manager in Montana.
Michael Thompson Ph.D. is the Education and Outreach Coordinator at the NSF Science ahd Technology Center for Coastal Margin and Observation. He has an M.S. in Biochemistry and a PhD in Chemical Education with a focus in Engineering Education. He has been instrumental in the establishment of the EPICS High-school program, development and implementation of teacher training workshops, STEM learning communities for undergraduates, and service-learning experiences for high-school and undergraduate students.
Amy F. Johnson M.S, serves as the Managing Director for the NSF Science and Technology Center for Coastal Margin Observation and Prediction. Having earned an M.S. in Management in Science and Technology, she has years of experience managing in science and technology companies and education institutions. Prior to joining CMOP she was the Assistant Dean for Craduate Education at the OCI School of Science & Engineering at the Oregon Health & Science University.
Tawnya D. Peterson Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Institute of Environmental Health at Oregon Health & Science University. She holds a Ph.D. in Biological Oceanography and carries out research that seeks to identify the factors that shape planktonic community diversity and function in aquatic systems. ln addition to scientific research, she is interested in the development and implementation of professional development programs for K-l2 teachers.
Antonio M. Baptista Ph.D. is a professor and director of the lnstitute of Environmental Health, Oregon Health & Science University and the director of the NSF Science and Technology Center for Coastal Margin Observation & Prediction. He has 25 years of experience in team science and graduate-level teaching, and uses leading edge coastal-margin science and technology as a catalyst for informed management decisions, workforce development and broadening participation.
All Photos: Courtesy of CMOP staff member Jeff Schilling
Reprinted from Current, the Journal of the National Marine Education Association
It Takes a Community to Raise a Scientist:
A Case for Community-Inspired Research and Science Education in an Alaskan Native Community
By Nievita Bueno Watts and Wendy F. Smythe
The quote, “lt takes a village to raise a child,” is attributed to African tradition and carries over to Alaskan Native communities as well (Hall, 2000). Without the support of their community and outside resources, Alaska Native children have a difficult time entering the world of science. Yet increasing the awareness of science, as a tool to help a tribal community monitor and maintain the health of their environment, introduces conflicts and misconceptions in context of traditional cultural practices. Rural communities depend upon traditional food harvested from the environment such as fish, wild game, roots, and berries. In many Native Alaskan villages the health of the environment equals the health of the people (Garza, 2001) . Integrating science with culture in pre-college education is a challenge that requires sensitivity and persistence.
The Center for Coastal Margin Observation and Prediction (CMOP) is a multi-institutional, National Science Foundation (NSF) Science and Technology Center that takes an interdisciplinary approach to studying the region where the Columbia River empties into the Pacific Ocean. Two of CMOP’s focus areas are biogeochemical changes affecting the health of the coastal margin ecosystem, and socio-economic changes that might affect the lives of people who harvest and consume fish and shellfish.
The Columbia River waters touch the lives and livelihoods of many people, among them a large number of Pacific Northwest lndian tribes. These people depend on the natural and economic resources provided by the Columbia River. Native peoples from California through Alaska also depend on resources from their local rivers, and, currently, many tribes are developing-a workforce trained with scientific skills to manage their own natural resources in a way that is consistent with their traditional way of life. The relationship between Traditional Knowledge (TK) and practices, which are informed by centuries of observation, experimentation and carefully preserved oral records, and Western Science, which is deeply rooted in the philosophies and institutions of Europe, is often an uneasy one.
National progress is being made to open pathways for individuals from Native communities to Western Science higher education programs and back to the communities, where tribal members are empowered to evaluate and monitor the health of their environment. CMOP is part of this national movement. CMOP science is developing tools and techniques to observe and predict changes in the river to ocean system. CMOP education, an essential element of CMOB supports American lndian/Alaska Native students in pursuing academic and career pathways focusing on coastal margin sciences (Creen et al., 2013). One of CMOP’s initiatives is the CMOP- School Collaboratories (CSC) program.
The CMOP-school Collaboratories (CSC) program is based on the idea that Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) pathway development requires an intensive and sustained effort to build relationships among science educators, students, school personnel, and the tribal community. The over-arching goal is to broaden participation in STEM disciplines. CMOP educators developed the CSC model that includes integration strategies for a community, development of appropriate lessons and field experiences and student action projects that connect local and traditional knowledge with science. Educational experiences are place- based, multi-disciplinary and culturally relevant. The objective is to open students’ minds to the reality of the need for scientists with many different world views and skill sets working together to address our planet’s pressing problems in a holistic manner. CMOP seeks to encourage these students to be part of that solution using both Traditional Knowledge and STEM disciplines.
The program encourages STEM education and promotes college preparatory awareness. This CSC program has three unique characteristics: it introduces coastal margin science as a relevant and viable field of employment; it integrates STEM learning with Traditional Knowledge; and, it invites family and community members to share science experiences. The example presented in this article describes a four-year program implemented in a small village in Southeast Alaska, 200 miles from the capital city of Juneau.
ALASKA NATIVE VILLAGE CASE STUDY
Wendy Smythe, a CMOP doctoral candidate and principal investigator for an NSF Enhancing Diversity in the Geosciences (OEDC) award, is an Alaska Native Haida. As she advanced in her own education, she wanted to share what she had learned with the youth of her tribal community, striving to do so with the blessing of the tribal Elders, and in a way that respected the Traditional Knowledge of the Elders. Dr Bueno Watts is a mentor and expert on broadening participation. She acts in an advisory capacity on this project.
The village school consists of l5 staff members and 50 K-l2 students, with the school experiencing high administration turnover rates. ln the first two years of the program we recruited non-native graduate students to participate in the CSC program. This effort provided them experience working in Native communities. ln the last two years we recruited Native American undergraduate interns to teach lessons, assist with field activities and provide students with the opportunity to become familiar with Native scientists [Figure 1]. lnterns formed part of the science team.
STEPS TO GAIN ENTREE TO A VILLAGE
The community must support the concept to integrate science education with traditional practices. Even for this Alaska Native (Smythe), the process of building consensus from the tribe and gaining approval from the Elders and school district for the program was a lengthy one. The first step required letters of support from school district and tribal leaders. The difference in geographical locations proved difficult until Smythe was able to secure an advocate in the tribe who spoke for her at tribal meetings. Face-to-face communications were more successful than distance communications. Persistence proved to be the key to achieving success at getting the consensus of community leaders and school officials’ support. This was the top lesson of l0 learned from this project (Table l).
Traveling to the school to set up the program is no small feat and requires extensive coordination of transportation and supplies. A typical trip requires a day-long plane ride, overnight stay in a nearby town to prepare and gather supplies, a three-hour ferry ride, acquisition of a rental truck and a one-hour drive. Accommodations must be made to board with community members.
The development of appropriate lessons for the curriculum engaged discussions with tribal Elders and community Ieaders on an individual basis. Elders agreed to provide videoed interviews and were given honoraria as a thank you for their participation. Smythe asked the Elders what scientists could do to help the community, what stories can be used, where students and educators could work in the community to avoid intruding on sacred sites, and what information should not be made public. Once Elders agreed to provide interviews and share stories, other community members began to speak about their lives and concerns. This included influence of boarding schools, Iife as it was in the past, and changes they would like to see within the community. This was a significant breakthrough.
Table l . Lessons Learned: ten things to consider when developing a science program with Native communities
1. Persistence is key.
2. Face to-face communication is vital and Lakes time.
3. A community advocate with influence and respect in the community is critical.
4. Consult with the Elders first. They have their finger on the pulse of the community and are the center “of the communication network. Nothing happens without their approval. Find out what it is okay to talk about and where your boundaries are and abide by them. lnclude funds for honorariums in your proposal. Elders’ time and knowledge is valuable and they should be compensated as experts.
5. Partner with individuals or groups, such as the Department of Natural Resources.
6. Find a relevant topic. Be flexible with your curriculum choice. It must reflect the needs and interests of the community and the abilities of the teacher you are working with.
7 . Be prepared, bring supplies with you. Ship items in advance if going to a remote location
8. Have the ability to provide individual instruction for students who need it to prepare projects and practice giving presentations.
9. lnvolve the community. Hold events in a community center to encourage everyone to attend.
10. View your involvement as a long-term investment in a committed community relationship.
ln addition to the Elders, support was needed from a natural resources representative who functioned as a liaison between our group and the community members. This person’s role is found in most villages and could be the head of the Department of Natural Resources or a similar tribal agency that oversees fish, wildlife, and natural resources. This person provides a critical link between the natural environment and the community. The next step is to go in the field with the natural resources representative, science teachers, EIders, and interested students to identify a meaningful focus for the community. lnitially we focused the project with a scientist’s view of teaching microbiology and geology of mineral deposition in a river ecosystem. However, the team found community interest low and no enthusiasm for this project.
Upon our return to the village, the team and CMOP educators found the focus, almost by accident. We were intrigued by “boil water” notices posted both at the home in which we were staying and on the drinking fountains at the school: The students were all talking about water, as were the Elders. It was clear that the community cared about their water quality. The resulting community-inspired research educational plan was based on using aquatic invertebrate bioindicators as predictors of water quality (Adams, Vaughan & Hoffman Black, 2003). This student project combined science with community needs (Bueno Watts, 2011).
The first classroom lessons addressed water cycle and watershed concepts (Wolftree, 2OO4), which were followed by a field lesson on aquatic invertebrates. Students sampled different locations in an effort to determine biodiversity and quantity of macroinvertebrates. While students were sitting at the river’s edge, the site was described in the students’ Alaska Native tongue by a cultural expert, and then an English translation was provided. This introduced the combination of culture and language into the science lesson.
The village water supply comes from a river that runs through the heart of the community. Thus, this river was our primary field site from which students collected water for chemical sampling and aquatic invertebrates using D-loop nets. Physical and chemical parameters of the river were collected using Vernier LabQuest hand-held data loggers. Students recorded data on turbidity, flow rate, temperature, pH, and pinpointed locations using CPS coordinates (Figure 2].
Aquatic invertebrate samples were sorted, classified, counted, recorded, and examined through stereoscopes back in the classroom. Water chemistry was determined by kits that measured concentrations of alkalinity, dissolved oxygen, iron, nitrate/nitrite, dissolved carbon dioxide, and phosphate.
Microbiology assessments were conducted in an effort to detect fecal coliform (using m_FC Agar plates). Students tested water from an estuary, river, drinking fountain, and toilet. Results from estuarine waters showed a high number of fecal coliform, indicating that a more thorough investigation was warranted While fecal coliform are non-disease causing microorganisms, they originate in the intestinal tract, the same place as disease causing bacteria, and so their presence is a bioindicator of the presence of human or animal wastes (Figure 3).
Students learned that the “dirty water” they observed in the river was actually the result of a natural process of acidic muskeg fluids dissolving iron minerals in the bedrock, no health danger. The real health threat was in the estuarine shellfish waters. Students shared all of their results with their families, after which community members began to approach the CMOP science team with questions about the quality of their drinking water. The community was relieved to find that the combined results of aquatic invertebrate counts and water chemistry indicated that the water flowing through their town was healthy. However they were concerned about the potential contamination as indicated by fecal coliform counts in the local estuary where shellfish were traditionally harvested.
ln the second year, a curriculum on oceanography developed by another STC, the Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE) was introduced (Bruno, Wiener, Kimura & Kimura, 2011). Oceanography lessons focused on water density as a function of salinity and temperature, ocean currents, phytoplankton, and ocean acidification, all areas of research at CMOP. Additional lessons used local shipworms, a burrowing mollusk known to the community, as a marine bioindicator (CMOP Education, 2013). Students continued to conduct bioassessments of local rivers and coastal marine waters.
Figure 3: Students sort and count aquatic invertebrates as a bioindicator of river health.
Students used teleconferencing technology to participate in scanning electron microscope (SEM) session with a scientist in Oregon who had their samples of aquatic invertebrates. Students showcased their experiments during parent day. Five students (l0%) had parents and/or siblings who attended the event.
As a reward for participation in the science program, two students were chosen to attend the American lndian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) 2009 conference in Oregon. Travel expenses were shared between the school, CSC program, and the tribe. ln the following three years an additional ten students attended the AISES conference and presented seven science research posters in New Mexico. Minnesota and Alaska. ln 2012, one student won 3rd place for her shipworm poster presentation (Figure 5). These conference presentations enabled some students to take their first trip out of Alaska.
ln May 20ll the first Science Symposium for grades K-12 allowed students to share their science projects with parents, Elders, and tribal community members. Both students and teachers were prepared on how to do a science fair project. Work with students had to be accomplished on a one-on-one basis, and members of the team were paired with students to assist with completing projects and polishing presentations. Students were not accustomed to speaking publicly, so this practice was a critical step.
The event was held at the local community center, which encouraged Elders and other community members to attend.
Elders requested a public education opportunity to teach the community about watersheds and the effects of logging. Our team incorporated this request into the science symposium. Students led this project by constructing a 5D model of the watershed for display. People could simulate rainfall, see how land use affects runoff and make runoff to river estuary connections. Scientists conducted hands-on demonstrations related to shipworms, local geology, ocean acidification and deepsea research. Language and culture booths were also included. During the symposium, a video of one of the interviews we had conducted with an Elder was shown as a memorial to his passing. The symposium was considered a huge success and was attended by 35 students and 50 community members.
The CSC program garnered results that could not have been predicted at the outset. For example, the tribe requested our input when deciding which students should attend a tribal leadership conference and summer camp. Three student interns participated in a collaborative project with the tribe to conduct bio-assessment studies of local rivers and a key sockeye breeding lake. lnterns operated a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) for data collection, resulting in video documentation of the salmon habitat. ln addition to the bio-assessment, the interns conducted interviews with Elders about the rivers in the monitoring project. The results of this study were used to stop logging around sockeye spawning habitat and to ban the harvest of shellfish from contaminated parts of the estuary. Now the tribe is monitoring rivers on its own. ln the near future CMOP plans to install a sensor that can be monitored remotely, and to train people to read and interpret the data.
Community-inspired research often produces a ripple effect of unforeseen results. ln this case, inclusion of Elders in the design and implementation of the project produced large scale buy-in from community members at all age levels. Consequently, in a village where traditionally students did not think about education beyond high school, we have had two students attend college, two students attend trade school, five students receive scholarships, and eight Native interns conducting science or science education in the community. And, given the low numbers of Alaska Natives pursuing careers in science, we find those numbers to be remarkable.
Adams, J., Vaughan, M., & Hoffman Black, S. (200i). Stream Bugs as Biomonitors: A Guide to Pacific Northwest Macroinvertebrate Monitoring and Identification. The Xerces Society. Available from: http://www.xerces.org/identification-guides/#
Bruno, B. C., Wiener, C., Kimura, A., & Kimura, R. (2011). Ocean FEST: Families exploring science together. Journal of Geoscience Education, 59, 132.1.
Bueno Watts, N. (20,1 1). Broadening the participation of Native Americans in Earth Science. (Doctoral dissertation).
Retrieved from Pro-Quest. UMI Number: 3466860. URL http ://repository.asu.edu/items / 9 438
Center for Coastal Margin Observation & Prediction. QO13). Shipworm lesson URL http://www.stccmop”org/ education/k1 2/geoscience/shipworms
Carza, D. (200.l). Alaska Natives assessing the health of their environment. lnt J Circumpolar Health. 6O@):a79-g6.
Creen, V., Bueno Watts, N., Wegner, K., Thompson, M., Johnson, A., Peterson, T., & Baptista, A. (201i). Coastal Margin Science and Education in the Era of Collaboratories. Current: The Journal of Marine Education. 28(3).
Hall, M. (2000). Facilitating a Natural Way: The Native American Approach to Education. Creating o Community of Learners: Using the Teacher os Facilitator Model. National Dropout Prevention Center. URL http://www. n iylp.org/articles/Facilitating-a-Natural-Way.pdf
Wolftree, lnc. (200a). Ecology Field Cuide: A Cuide to Wolftree’s Watershed Science Education Program, 5th Edition. Beavercreek, OR: Wolftree, lnc. URL http://www. beoutside.org/PUBLICATIONS/EFCEnglish.pdf
The educational resources of CMOP are available on their website : U R L http ://www. stccm o p. o rg / education / kl 2
CMOP is funded by NSF through cooperative agreement OCE- 0424602. Smythe was also supported by NSF grant CEO-I034611. We would like to thank Dr. Margo Haygood, Carolyn Sheehan, and Meghan Betcher for their assistance and guidance with the shipworm project. We would like to thank the Elders and HCA for their guidance, advice and encouragement throughout this program
Nievita Bueno Watts, Pn.D. is a geologist, science educator, and Director of Academic programs at the NSF Science and Technology Center for Coastal Margin Observation & Prediction (CMOP). She conducts research on broadening the participation of underrepresented minorities in the sciences and serves on the Board of Directors of the Geoscience Alliance, a national organization dedicated to building pathways for Native American participation in the Earth Sciences.
Wendy F. Smythe is an Alaska Native from the Haida tribe and a Ph.D. candidate at the NSF Science and Technology Center for Coastal Margin Observation & Prediction. She runs a geoscience education program within her tribal community in Southeast Alaska focused on the incorporation of Traditional Knowledge into STEM disciplines.