Free educational video to instill a love of nature in students

POULSBO — Kitsap County residents can’t live without the environment, so they must learn to live with it.

As the population grows and developments bloom, wilderness resources often pay a high price for the growth, which isn’t going away any time soon.

But the wilderness doesn’t have to pay for future developments, if the county’s youth learn to embrace nature and become the stewards of tomorrow, said Nancy Sefton, a producer of educational nature videos.

“If they can learn about these things at a young age then that will stay in their minds and hopefully they’ll grow up to be better stewards of it,” she said before reciting an old, wise saying. “We will only save what we love and we will only love what we understand ... if we understand wild places around us, then we will probably work hard to save them.”

For Sefton’s message of environmental stewardship to reach the county’s youngest students, she produced a 15-minute video, “Kitsap County Wild!”

She provided a free copy of “Kitsap County Wild!” to every elementary school that she knows of in Kitsap, to every Kitsap Regional Library location and the S’Klallam Tribe.

“The main reason I did it was to provide the schools a new teaching tool,” Sefton said. “I felt a need for youngsters to appreciate all of the wildlife and places we have in Kitsap County right at the back doorstep.”

The video is shot in real life and animation, as a way to reach its target audience of students ages 7 through 11.

“Nothing engages a youngster more than an animated character,” Sefton said. “They’re watching TV and computers so much they respond automatically to a colorful character.”

An animated black bear named Bentley narrates the video. And Bentley loves Kitsap’s diverse ecosystems, habitats and abundant wildlife. Therefore, Bentley and two animated children embark on a journey through forests, streams, wetlands, estuaries and coastal ecosystems.

“All of us critters depend on this special habitat,” Bentley said to his two guests as they began their journey.

Bentley and crew come across deer, elk, bear, cougars, bobcats, owls and eagles. A walk through an old-growth forest reveals a diversity of vegetation. The viewers learn an old-growth forest takes nearly 200 years to develop and some of the trees are more than 500 years old. Bentley even knows a Douglas fir that’s 1,000 years old.

As the wilderness adventure continues students learn about decomposing cycles, salmon spawning, biomass and food webs.

Viewers of the video aren’t the only ones who stand to learn about Kitsap’s forests.

Sefton also discovered a surprising tidbit of her own while out filming: The county is home to more than 2,000 black bears, she said.

“It is simply amazing, the diversity of wild creatures that are thriving in Kitsap County,” Sefton said. “We still have that much forest canopy to sustain wildlife.”

Sefton is no amateur when it comes to producing films, as some of her past works were featured on PBS and her nature images have appeared in “National Geographic” and “Smithsonian” magazines.

In 2006, Sefton’s third production company, Unicorn Studios, along with the help of others, released “Foulweather Bluff: A Place of Wonders,” and donated the video to the North Kitsap School District fourth- and fifth-grade classes.

She said the video was such a success it bore the idea behind “Kitsap County Wild!” so all the county’s youngsters might appreciate the abundance of natural resources.

Kitsap County educators will find a copy of the video in elementary school libraries this month.

Copies are also available for purchase at Liberty Bay Books.

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