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Prince offers up backyard education

POULSBO — The 20-acre property off Stevens Uhler Road is many things to two groups of community members.

To the Prince family, it’s a home, outfitted with various types of sporting equipment and outdoor recreation facilities.

To the seventh grade at Kingston Junior High, it’s an outdoor classroom and a field trip from the usual classroom science experiments.

For the past three years, Bim Prince and his family have opened up their large lot of land to local junior high kids for two days of experiments, games and outdoor excursions.

The annual field trips started two years ago when the youngest Prince, Jordan, was in seventh grade and coincidentally, the KJH science department received a grant from Kitsap County’s Stream and Stormwater Management (SSWM) for field work. The grant paid for transportation, substitute teachers and the equipment used in the field.

The Princes invited the school to use their land as learning grounds, Bim Prince said, “because it’s here. It’s a fun piece of property.”

Prior to coming out to the site, members of SSWM spent one day a week for four weeks working with the students on various watershed issues in the classroom, including testing water from Carpenter Creek, said KJH science teacher Karla Laubach.

The entire seventh grade class was then divided up into groups and visited the Prince property on either May 27 or May 28.

Students participated in various activities, including testing water from Gamble Creek that runs through the Prince property, visiting a beaver dam, and playing tag-like games such “Mosquito, Salmon, Bear,” which taught them about the forest’s food chain.

Everyone reconvened at KJH Thursday to compare testing results between their lab work and their field work.

“It helps the kids get some first-hand knowledge on how to keep the water healthy and become educated on how to take care of their water use and land use,” Laubach said. “They enjoy what they are doing and are more likely to remember what they are doing.”

Another aspect of the outdoor excursion is to enforce practical decision making skills — such as thinking twice about washing the car in the driveway or inappropriately dumping chemicals, Laubach explained.

“See the kids mature and make their own decisions,” she added. “And they get to be outside.”

Students picked up bits of knowledge applicable to everyday life.

“How much pH and acid is in the water that we should know about,” said seventh grader Chelsie Brann. “So you know how much pollution is in the water and how we can fix it and make the world a better place.”

“If this water was all paved, the rivers would be all dried up,” said student Jared Wright.

“Salmon fertilize this whole place,” added Corey Newman.

Prince’s tour of the forest included crossing creeks via wooden planks and observing old growth stumps.

As a former biology teacher at Bainbridge Island High School, Prince said he knows the difference between learning in a classroom and hands-on experiences.

“It’s just fun. When I was teaching, I was real active in outdoor education. I think it’s important for them to see the world rather than just read about it,” he said.

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