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Suquamish pond earns national honor

SUQUAMISH — The Suquamish Basket Marsh isn’t finished helping kids learn, and apparently it’s not finished earning accolades, either.

The pond located at Suquamish Elementary — which was designed and built by students, community volunteers, the school district, the Suquamish Tribe and plenty of others — has won the President’s Environmental Youth Award.

If enough money is raised, students will travel to Washington D.C. Oct. 18 to receive the honor.

Students will display an exhibit about the project in the International Trade Center, make Congressional stops and visit national monuments. The trip may even include a visit to the White House. School officials have been told that the White House portion of the trip is dependent on the state of world affairs.

“It’s great for our school, but great for the community,” Suquamish principal Joe Davalos said of the basket marsh project. “And it shows things you can do that aren’t the typical classroom stuff.”

The pond project was started by teacher Jan Jackson. With the help of Jackson, students and community members, the muddy field located near the school was transformed into a 30-by-50-foot pond that includes native plants, a longhouse and a walking trail.

Former Suquamish student Winona Sigo — now a seventh grader at Kingston Junior High — said she was excited to be part of the project.

“We needed something that was a good classroom for kids to learn in. Outdoors is better than being stuck in a classroom all day,” Sigo said.

The pond “opened” with a ceremony in May of 2002 and soon after earned several local honors, including a Kitsap County Environmental Award, an Outstanding Achievement in Youth Leadership award and honors from the Suquamish Tribe.

It’s called a basket marsh because the native plants that are grown there were once used by local tribes to make baskets.

Ever since the opening, students have been using the space for environmental and scientific study, inspiration for creative writing and more.

Now they have one more reason to be proud.

“This is great news,” Jackson said, adding, “I’m just thrilled for all of the students.”

The award includes paid expenses for two of the students to travel to Washington, D.C., but Jackson wants nine — the maximum allowed — to attend.

She said she believes about $3,000 is needed to make up the difference.

Donations and fund-raising events are being planned.

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