Outdoor classroom to introduce students to environmental studies

Ten-day field course offered for youths

PORT TOWNSEND — Studying forests and marine life are only part of a summer school ecology class accepting applications now.

Applications are due on Wednesday for the Youth Environmental Stewards (YES!) Program’s upcoming 2022-23 Environmental Science and Leadership Class.

Beginning July 18, students will participate in a 10-day non-residential field course, said Jude Rubin, NWI public engagement director, in a press release.

Trips to Gibbs Lake, Fort Flagler State Park, Anderson Lake State Park, Taylor Shellfish Farm and multiple sites in Tarboo-Dabob and Snow Creek watersheds — and a full day studying marine life along Marrowstone Island with the Olympic Kayak Company — are planned.

“Given our beautiful, intact ecosystems, Jefferson County is a unique training ground for students who want to pursue environmental science and policy careers,” Rubin said.

“These kids can be empowered to make important, lasting contributions … but first they need a chance to explore their home ecosystems, and to learn about natural resource jobs by working with experts.”

To apply, visit Northwest Watershed Institute (NWI) at www.nwwatershed.org and click “YES! Apply Now!”

The class is available free of charge with support from the state Recreation and Conservation Office “No Child Left Inside” Grant and from private donors, according to organizers.

However, sliding-scale donations from participants’ families are requested to help cover food and other costs.

A similar class at the North Cascades Institute costs $1,570, NWI said.

The class size is limited to 15 students and three youth staff. Students from Port Townsend, PT OCEAN, Quilcene and Chimacum Pi high schools are eligible to apply for the accredited class.

The theme is “How can we better understand, restore and protect our local ecosystems?”

YES! is coordinated each year by NWI — a Port Townsend-based nonprofit organization, in partnership with other natural resource and tribal organizations. The featured partner in 2022 is Washington State Parks.

The class is completed during a two-week summer intensive, and it involves learning and working on restoration projects, while also providing time to enjoy natural places.

Each student will gain 0.5 credit for the class. All will be recognized for their participation in the YES! program during their high school graduation ceremonies.

Those who complete the program become eligible to serve as crew leaders and assistants on ecological service projects with mentor organizations.

Projects include removing nonnative invasive plants, decommissioning eroding trails and coastal clean-ups.

In the course, students spend two weeks working outdoors with natural resource professionals.

Many students remark afterward that they had no awareness of these careers or organizations before taking the class, Rubin said.

Anticipated mentors for the field course include representatives from NWI, Washington State Parks, Jefferson County Department of Health, the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, Olympic National Park’s Matt Albright Native Plant Center and the state Department of Fish & Wildlife, among others.

After completing the summer science and leadership intensive, students can pursue independent projects with professional mentors for an additional 0.5 credit, which can help fulfill elective, occupational credit and/or senior project requirements.

Projects include restoration and tree planting, interpretive docents at salmon-bearing streams, marine aquarists, outdoor educators and conducting conservation research.

In all, a student must complete a minimum of 80 hours of work on their independent project to receive the additional 0.5 credit.

Class size is limited to 18 because that is the maximum number that fits in a small school bus Port Townsend High School is sponsoring, Rubin said. Three of the 18 students will be previous participants serving as youth staff.

Ongoing donations to support the class are welcomed.

For more information, contact Rubin at [email protected] or 360-774-1457.

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