Students’ education focuses on conservation

KINGSTON — Harmony with nature is a lesson that nearly everyone in today’s society could read about and take notes on.

But after getting a crash course in environmental education last November, fourth-grade students at Wolfle Elementary School have written their own chapter on the subject with a Foulweather Bluff display that aims to reinvigorate the words of local conservationist Dave Allen.

As chair of the Foulweather Bluff Management Committee, Allen has partly focused the group’s efforts to use the Foulweather Bluff Preserve as an educational tool for local youth.

In April 2005, the committee approved the elementary school natural sciences library fund and Foulweather Bluff educational program in honor of Wolfle and FBMC volunteer Jim Shipton. That program aims to educate kids on two levels.

On a bookworm plane, the Wolfle and Suquamish Elementary school libraries are receiving $250 per year for three years to add to each school’s natural science reading collection. On a hands-on plane, the program requires that Allen lead an annual field trip for each school during that same time period.

“The goal, really, is to help people realize the necessity of care for the environment,” said Wolfle librarian and program coordinator Kathee McNeely-Mobley. “The idea is really seeing the environment in its natural way and then trying to keep it that way.”

McNeely-Mobley hiked with a small group of Wolfle students and their parents last November at Foulweather Bluff and recently plastered the remnants of that adventure in the school’s front entrance display case.

“I’m hoping it will get the kids out there during spring break,” she said.

Not only does the display include earthy scenes of rocks and logs, it also features photographs that students took as they explored the preserve.

“When we got out there, Dave gave each kid a disposable camera and a little background (information),” McNeeley-Mobley said. “It’s interesting to see as they were walking along what they were focusing on.”

The resulting photo compilation is a diverse representation of nature’s raw beauty. And Wolfle fourth-grader Cory Ray even took a snapshot of an organism that no one in the school could identify offhand.

After hours of Internet research and kudos to Ray, McNeely-Mobley said they now believe the creature is a sea cucumber, which found a place to relax on the edges of the Hood Canal.

“It’s basically set up as a place to observe, listen and see what happens when nature is left alone. There’s a lot that goes on out there and it’s pretty fascinating,” Allen said. “There are all these different kinds of ecosystems within the preserve and lots to look at.”

The preserve’s 101 acres are spread from the saltwater shoreline of Hood Canal to a brackish inland marsh, encompassing two forest groves on the north end of the Kitsap Peninsula in Hansville.

Birds are the preserve’s dominant wildlife, as one can see coastal varieties lining the shores while bald eagles and osprey glide over the marshlands. There are 300 different plant species found on the preserve — 52 of which grow in the marsh.

The FBMC and The Nature Conservancy are determined to keep as many organisms in as pristine of an environment as possible at Foulweather Bluff. Therefore, the preserve is governed by a low-impact use only policy.

That policy is the concept which Allen is trying to instill into local children.

“A lot of these kids have been there over the years,” Allen said. “But some of them had never been introduced to it for what it really is.”

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