Burien’s Environmental Science Center receives STEM Education grant


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Burien’s Environmental Science Center recently received a $21,972 NOAA 21st-Century Community Learning Center Watershed STEM Education grant from the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.

Salmon Heroes: STEM Training for 21st CCLC Staff and Students was adapted from the Environmental Science Center’s fall Salmon Heroes program in summer camp style with the grant money.

The project spanned from June 27th until July 10th.

“The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation is proud to have worked with the U.S. Department of Education and NOAA to invest in the next generation of ocean stewards,” said Kris Sarri, President & CEO of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. “This innovative STEM partnership allowed students and educators from across the country to draw the powerful connection between our land and water and inspire local action to conserve our watersheds.”

Star Lake Elementary School and Totem Middle School students had a much different summer than many of their peers—the 60 students learned about local ecology and salmon habitat needs in the same experiential, hands-on way of fellow ESC Fall Salmon Heroes students, but they did it in summer-camp style in Dash Point State Park and PowellsWood Garden in Federal Way.  This was all new, exciting territory for ESC too, with an expansion of our program in Federal Way and chartering a partnership with PowellsWood, a privately owned and maintained garden and forest space.

Summer Salmon Heroes created unique opportunities for students by removing transportation barriers and introducing access to natural spaces, no matter what. One of the Totem students uses a wheelchair and his aides pushed him up the forest trail. In his daily life, he does not have access to a car to take him to these natural spaces or a way to physically get up the trail. He first exclaimed with trepidation, “Oh, God, nature!” Farther down the path, he excitedly shouted, “We’re in nature!”

His fellow students were also keen to make sure he had a similar experience at the beach, even though his wheelchair could not go on the sand. “His friends kept bringing him shells and running to tell him the cool facts they just learned about different organisms,” said Joanna Stodden, ESC Programs Manager at ESC. “It was great to know that they are eager to share their knowledge and show a fellow classmate all the interesting things they were observing.”

Having exposure to these great natural spaces was inspirational, as was bouncing off ideas with NOAA scientists. Jeff Adams, a marine ecologist, helped the students dip for macroinvertebrates in the stream at PowellsWood. Dan Lawson and Teresa Mongillo described what they do with NOAA. The students were intrigued to hear how scientists sample whale poop. This led to discussions on what it is like to be a scientist, how they find the whale poop and the average daily duties of a scientist.

Another unique aspect of the Summer Salmon Heroes program was the hands-on training and kits teachers received to lead and replicate future field studies. “Giving the teachers the tools to share this curriculum is key in getting their future students engaged,” Joanna said.

The award to Environmental Science Center was one of seventeen grants totaling $500,000 awarded by the Foundation as part of an interagency partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office of Education and the U.S. Department of Education (ED). These 17 grants emphasize the importance of STEM education outside of the classroom and supports projects taking place at one of the sites funded through ED’s 21st Century Community Learning Center program (21st CCLC). Each funded program will utilize components of NOAA’s Bay-Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) program’s meaningful watershed educational experiences to allow environmental education providers to work with 21st CCLC sites to provide academic enrichment experiences to students and related capacity building to educators, and leverage NOAA resources to increase participants’ understanding and stewardship of watersheds and related ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes ecosystems.

About the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation:
The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation is a private, non-profit organization that connects people to America’s national marine and Great Lakes sanctuaries. These special places are set aside for their cultural and ecological significance and protect the wildlife, habitats, and history of America’s ocean and Great Lakes for future generations. They are protected for the benefit of the American people, as outdoor classrooms, living laboratories, and amazing places to visit and play. The Foundation’s mission is to support sanctuaries and the communities which rely on them. Learn more at www.marinesanctuary.org.

About the Environmental Science Center: 
The Environmental Science Center promotes environmental stewardship and academic achievement through science-based education. the Environmental Science Center is a not-for-profit organization offering quality, experiential environmental education programs at our local beaches, streams, forests, and classrooms in South King County.  ESC’s programming ranges from classroom-based instruction and field trips to after-school programs and restoration projects. Learn more at envsciencecenter.org.

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