Students recounted, in successive storytelling, the history of the construction, utilization, and the removal of the Elwha dams. Students observed, first-hand, a Chinook (King) Salmon traveling upriver, one of the first to return to the Olympic Mountains to spawn via the Elwha in over 100 years. The Evergreen middle schoolers debated the cultural and economic implications of the dam removal while bearing witness to the stumps of 500 year-old trees that used to line the river.
Jenna and Josh provided bug collecting tools (pooters and beating nets) and requested that the students shake different trees and bushes in order to collect and document insects. They captured their observations in journals and noted the numbers/types of insects found on plants along the Elwha. They were asked to keep their observations intact, so that they could compare the results with their tests in another environment, the Sol Duc Hot Springs, the following day.
Students then divided into pairs to perform research on plant succession. Each team performed a series of tests along a transect from the water’s edge to 50 meters away. Some students utilized a penetrometer to determine soil compaction in the former basin of Lake Aldwell, while others performed water percolation tests, observed light levels, or completed water moisture analysis—collecting data and writing it in their journals.
It was time again to board the bus for a visit to the mouth of the Elwha River. Students reflected on the rebuilding of an estuary, a coastline evolving, and an epic day of learning.