Opinion

Saving the planet starts with kids

Environmental groups in the San Juans recognize an important fact: the future of our natural world depends on our children. By educating and instilling an appreciation for all plants, creatures and the relationship between them, we are ensuring a brighter future for ourselves and the land that surrounds us.

As in previous years, particularly during these warm, summer months, local science organizations get kids in the mud, wading in water, and looking into microscopes.

There are several projects going on right now that are involving children with conservation and environmental research.

Volunteers from Orcas High, Orcas Christian, Salmonberry School, WSU Beach Watchers and research scientists from the non-profit Kwiáht have set up the Indian Island Marine Health Observatory for monitoring ecological and biologic processes in East Sound. The study area is the shallow waters and eelgrass meadows between Waterfront Park and BLM-managed Indian Island. The team deployed larval boxes for collecting samples of planktonic invertebrates, and staked out plots with green and orange markers for monitoring eelgrass growth and sediment accumulations as well as two buoys with sensor arrays.

From Monday through Wednesday during the low tide cycles in May, June, July, and August, the volunteers can be seen out in the bay seining for fish and searching for rare invertebrates. The public is invited to come out and ask questions.

Russel Barsh and Madrona Murphy of Kwiáht try to involve young people whenever they can with their projects throughout the San Juans. Their office is based on Lopez Island.

The San Juan Nature Institute offers a Young Naturalists program for kids ages five to 12 years old during the summer months. It provides experiences rich in science content and outdoor learning. It has also been conducting Partners in Science projects at the elementary school, focusing on salmon.

Orcas Rec’s summer activities aren’t just sports and arts – they include field trips to farms, a beach scavenger hunt on Indian Island, a Turtleback mountain walk, food preservation, and beekeeping and honey production.

Community support is vital in keeping these kinds of endeavors going, and the recent round of Orcas Island Community Foundation grants proves how committed we are to educating and involving our children in the natural world.

The foundation, which is supported by community donations and its Partners in Philanthropy, funded a handful of agriculture and marine projects, including Farm to Cafeteria at the Orcas Schools, F.E.A.S.T. (Farm Education and Sustainability for Teens), Friends of Moran Park’s “Creatures of the Forest” preschool program, Kwiáht’s Fishing Bay toxicant study on freshwater shellfish, Long Live the Kings hatchery, Orcas Rec summer activities, and two San Juan Nature Institute elementary programs.

We are showing our children, through the continuation of these learning opportunities, that respecting the natural world is an important part of being a responsible human being. That’s something that is lost in so many other communities. Thank you to the scientists who invite youngsters to discover the wonder of nature and thank you to the generous donors who support some of the most important projects our islands offer.

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