The Salmon Coalition recently wrapped up a great season of learning about riverine restoration on the Hoko River with Beverly Mowrer's Middle School Science class at Clallam Bay Middle School.
Why is science important to you?
As a life long learner, studying science will forever be an unfolding adventure. One line of study always leads to new paths. As a teacher of science, the universe can be my theater. I am never bored, I always have something to ponder or something to research. Finding the connections is my favorite past time.
Why do you think it's important to teach science to our youth?
Teaching science (I mean really teaching) to our youth of today is seriously important. So many have been allowed to sit in isolation with their electronic gadgets that they do not know how to think. They have forgotten how to wonder. It is sad because they are literally walking around with access to a connection of vast amounts of scientific data in their palms but instead their time is spent in cyber chat rooms or snap chatting about trivial drama...who is going with whom and what they ate for lunch. Sigh.
In what ways do you think our Real Learning Real Work program has helped your students solidify various scientific concepts?
Getting kids out into the real world is always beneficial. As the years pass, I become ever more shocked and troubled by how little kids know about nature, the habitats around them and how they are inseparably linked. How can it be that a middle school student has never seen a living wild snail? Or not know if a tree is a living organism? Being permitted the freedom and time to explore in a safe outdoor environment is needed now more than ever. Having adults that are knowledgeable speaking to them as a team member, an equal, and working with them to learn about new things, especially the ways they can help restore and maintain a fragile environment, totally empowers kids. They are still talking about the two different trips we took and I doubt they will ever forget the experiences.
Do you think it's helped them in other ways? How so?
Definitely. They had to see one another in a different setting other than the classroom. The social dynamics were altered. Students that do not get to feel that they are cool enough to socialize with certain clicks were all of a sudden in high demand because others realized that they had knowledge not previously recognized or valued, both out in the field and back in the classroom. Like the student whose father is a logger and had taken the time to educate his daughter about the local native trees. Everyone wanted her on their team when it came time to plot their plantings. And the student who is very shy and tends to be isolated in the classroom who got a chance to shine when the class was designing their thank you cards. Her artistic paper skills amazed her peers as she taught them how to create salmon & environmental settings using paper and a glue stick.
Do you feel that your students have grasped the idea of interconnectedness within an ecosystem, such as between trees, salmon, wildlife and rivers?
I do feel that most of my students grasped the idea of interconnectedness within an ecosystem.
They have, throughout the rest of the year, continued to make these connections, often repeating the lessons learned on the Hoko. Even the few who were too absorbed with their teen angst, too worried about the texts and messages and drama to be able to get the vital lessons, were having cracks made into the facade.
Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
It is imperative that we get students outside and involved in interactive learning. We, as classroom teachers, are under a great deal of pressure to make it through the mandated curriculum in order to prepare for the State testing regime, and budgets are always too stretched to cover transportation expenses, that we do not have the energy to get our students out in the real world. Somehow these obstacles need to be addressed so that we can get the students outside. When I was a child, no one stayed inside once school was out for the day. Today, too many kids prefer to be inside and isolated with their electronics. The program that the North Olympic Salmon Coalition provided for my students definitely made deep, long term connections that will continue to be woven into their lives, which will eventually help us all. Thank you for this incredible opportunity.