Marine Science Center takes aboard youthful volunteers

POULSBO — The Poulsbo Marine Science Center is proving to be a warm, wintertime activity for North Kitsap youth, and not just those coming in for a visit.

Open to the community nearly three months, the center is filling with young observers and volunteers alike. Many are indulging their marine curiosities and making way for a future in science with hands-on learning and up-close experiences.

Poulsbo Middle School student Ryan McCarthy, 13, had his hands full — literally — Dec. 8 measuring various tidepool creatures so that their growth can be tracked. The eighth-grader, who volunteers with his dad because he is under the age of 16, said he’s learned a lot about oceanic inhabitants since starting at the center.

“I learned about new species of animals,” he said. “How they eat, how to feed them, lots of new stuff.”

Docent Gary Jackson said the number of young volunteers taking part in the program is an encouraging one.

“I think it’s been great that we’ve had all these younger kids take the classes,” he said. “It’s a great experience for someone who has interest in marine biology.”

Volunteer Nancy Sefton said the activity is one perfect for an entire family.

“It’s amazing how many youngsters have asked to be involved,” she said.

Volunteer coordinator Denise Bauman said though volunteer numbers sometime outweigh visitors, the center’s goal of educating the bay’s community is steadily being met.

“People have different reasons for volunteering,” she said. “It’s a chance for them to get up close to the animals. I hope that some of the(m) become marine biologists.”

Bauman said she encourages those interested to check out the center over winter break and get a front-row view of what the beach has to offer.

Poulsbo resident Jeff Schmitt said his daughter Katharine, 3, was enjoying experiencing just that.

“I think it’s great,” he said. “She loves this kind of stuff. She’s all into the touch.”

Poulsbo Marine Science Center Foundation president Bruce Harlow said while the center’s attendance is still low, more amenities are on their way and the educational programs are coming along well.

“We are hoping to get an octopus in the tank before long,” he said. “I think that’ll be a nice amenity that everyone will enjoy. Meanwhile we’re hoping for some mid-year assistance from the legislature.”

Harlow said 23rd Legislative District Rep. Sherry Appleton and Sen. Phil Rockefeller have continued to champion the center’s cause.

Also in the works is the remodeling of a boathouse to be turned into a floating lab.

“Hopefully in the spring we can have some pilot programs down there,” he said.

The first series of PMSC classes is set to begin in fall 2008. Harlow said the center’s educational aspect is of the highest importance.

“The heart and soul of the whole project is this education for children,” he said, and responding to McCarthy’s comment, “if we can light a spark in a young man’s mind like that it’s just wonderful.”

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