DIANA SOMERVILLE’S ACT LOCALLY: Learning from Mother Nature

MOTHER NATURE PUTS on her dazzling best on the North Olympic Peninsula.

Glacier-kissed mountains and old-growth forests, rain forests, estuaries, rivers, streams and marine ecosystems offer something to awaken the nature lover in anyone.

Ready to learn with Nature herself?

Perhaps the newest possibility has been created by Peninsula College and Clallam and Jefferson counties’ school districts.

“It’s a project-based field science class working on real projects in our local ecosystems,” said natural resources teacher Dan Lieberman.

Field work is a down and dirty form of hands-on learning.

Nature’s classroom includes wading into icy streams to take measurements or slipping along muddy riverbanks planting trees to restore native vegetation.

Working outdoors suits those who are bored and restless in traditional classrooms.

“They’re often kinesthetic learners, those who learn best by doing,” he said.

North Olympic Peninsula Skills Center natural resources classes are open to residents ages 16-21 who have not graduated.

Details at http://nopsc.org/naturalresources. Or contact Lieberman at 360-565-1892 or dlieberman@portangelesschools.org.

“We’ll be restoring native vegetation along streams on the west side, working with the Salmon Coalition,” he said.

The soil conservation district is donating plants left over from its spring sale.

Next comes working with community gardens and helping eliminate ­noxious weeds.

“This spring, we’re learn about the relationships between plants and soils,” Dan said.

Come April, it’s a wetlands survey with the Department of Fish and Wildlife, then marine sciences as students work with COASST, the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team.

This project involves establishing of a network of citizen scientists in coastal communities, each collecting rigorous and vital data for monitoring the health of local ecosystems and marine resources.

COASST is a project of the University of Washington in partnership with other environmental agencies, organizations, and community groups.(http://depts.washington.edu/coasst)

A two-semester class meets every week day afternoon during the school year. Students can earn both high school and college credits.

After a year, students will have field experience and a portfolio to help them take the next step.

Service learning projects involve students directly with ongoing community efforts.

For example, data gathered in a GPS/GIS mapping study becomes part of the multi-layered information available to the public through the Clallam County Geographic Information System, http://tinyurl.com/ycdt8u6.

Working side by side with professionals in water quality research, timber management, habitat assessment, marine ecology and other fields opens doors to a variety of natural resources careers.

See the Olympic Peninsula Natural Resources Careers Web site, www.opnrc.org, “which was built by Peninsula College, the skills center, Natural Resources and RC&D,” Lieberman said.

You don’t have to be a student to learn more about how Mother Nature operates, however.

The Olympic Park Institute offers family programs and workshops as well as science enrichment opportunities at Lake Crescent. Angeles. Details: http://www.naturebridge.org/olympic-park.

Joining a volunteer group is a great way to learn about nature and meet new people. Consider:

• Streamkeepers offers Clallam County residents opportunities to monitor, protect, and restore streams in our watersheds.

It is a citizen-based monitoring program of Clallam County’s Department of Community Development. (www.clallam.net/streamkeepers)

• The North Olympic Salmon Coalition is a nonprofit, community-based organization dedicated to restoring, enhancing, and protecting the habitat of North Olympic Peninsula wild salmon. (www.nosc.org)

• Volunteer at Olympic National Park at www.nps.gov/getinvolved/volunteer.

Ready to get your feet wet?

Help save the coast from household plastics and other garbage by joining the Washington Coast Cleanup on April 17.

Sign up at www.coastsavers.org.

Your Mother is calling you.

________

Diana Somerville, an award-winning author and science writer, lives in Clallam County and can be contacted via www.DianaSomerville.com.

Act Locally, her column on sustainability and the environment on the North Olympic Peninsula, appears every other Tuesday.

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