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Suquamish basket marsh celebrates beginning

SUQUAMISH — It used to be a brown-grassed, muddy field. Now it’s a pond ringed by green grass and a walking path.

But don’t think the Suquamish Basket Marsh is finished.

At a celebration Thursday afternoon to celebrate the opening of Suquamish’s special environmental project, Jan Jackson, the teacher who sparked it, said, “The basket marsh has just begun. We’re celebrating its beginning.”

Jackson, along with hundreds of students and volunteers, helped turn an ugly chunk of field next to the elementary school into what it is now, a 30-by-50 pond already sporting native plants, a longhouse, a walking trail, and even a few frogs.

The basket marsh — called that because local tribe members used plants of the kind planted near the pond to make baskets — wouldn’t have been possible without the work of the students, who hammered nails, helped construct the walking path, and planted plants for the outdoor project.

Thursday afternoon, the efforts of the students and volunteers were praised at a grand opening ceremony.

Students performed songs; Kitsap County Commissioner Chris Endresen presented them with an environmental award, an Outstanding Achievement in Youth Leadership award; and tribal elders performed a welcoming ceremony for the pond, which stood only a hundred feet away, ready to receive visitors.

Suquamish’s students were pleased to see all their work finally take shape.

“I liked that I was doing something that would go on for years,” said Alik Crockett.

Crockett was one of the many “pond kids” who spent hours planting plants, hammering nails, making scale models of the pond, and doing work to beautify their school.

“I got to be around plants and learn about them and help them grow,” said sixth-grader Sabrina Dent, who added: “You get to work with Mother Nature.”

Winona Sigo hooked a thumb towards the peaceful pond, which sports cedar and strawberry plants at its shore.

“I was excited,” Sigo said, “because I thought over here was ugly (before the pond was built). The grass was brown. Now it’s green.”

Sigo said, “I enjoyed knowing I’m making a difference in the school.”

Like Jackson said; the work is far from finished — and that doesn’t only refer to bark that still needs to be spread.

Students will use the bond for environmental study; for scientific analysis; for math calculations; for journal entries; and for anything else teachers — and kids — can think of.

Already the kids have sported “pond journals,” in which they sketched plants and studied water level.

U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee sent a letter, writing that he couldn’t wait to start his own pond journal.

For Jackson, the students, and the hundreds of volunteers — from those who sported shovels to those who designed the pond — Thursday was the first of many proud days.

“I don’t know if I’ve been prouder to be the principal of Suquamish Elementary,” said Joe Davalos.

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