Stories from the Field

Olympic Service Day and Elwha Exploration Day

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Our Olympic campus was buzzing with activity as we welcomed volunteers, friends and NatureBridge board members for a spring clean-up day earlier this month. Volunteers helped inventory gear supplies, cleaned cabins, raked the lawns, scrubbed signs and windows, and organized storage and administrative areas. Former NatureBridge educators and students joined the crew, along with community members and newcomers to campus. Together, they tackled big tasks and small jobs, assisting staff in caring for our historic campus. Campus Director Jen Kidder summed up the experience, exclaiming, "I can't begin to tell you how helpful this was to our staff and how beneficial this will be for our students!"

Service day volunteers scrubbed signage all around campus

Friends and community members joined our campus educators the following day for Elwha Exploration Day, an opportunity to walk in the footsteps of NatureBridge students discovering the Elwha River’s history and engaging in hands-on science activities exploring the river’s ongoing restoration. Beginning with a coffee and banana bread reception in StormKing Hall, the morning elicited bright smiles and excitement despite the drizzly weather. Education Manager Chelsea Leven led the group in a warm-up activity in which participants sketched their ideas of what a "healthy Pacific Northwest river" looks like and then shared their drawings with one another. Afterwards, Chelsea presented a brief history of the Elwha River and its dams (both their implementation and removal), along with stories and images describing the Elwha's significance to the indigenous people of the area who have lived and cared for the lands and waters here since time immemorial.

Then it was time to don rain gear and head out into the field! Attendees caravanned to the banks of the Elwha, dodging raindrops as they went. Gathered along the riverbank, participants had the opportunity to learn from NatureBridge educators Meg, Cheyenne, Emily, Aspen and Maddie while exploring an area that, before the removal of the dams, had been underwater for years. Utilizing the same tools that NatureBridge students access, attendees split into small groups to measure water turbidity, pH and flow rate, collect and identify macroinvertebrates and analyze gravel deposits. Everyone enjoyed learning about the citizen science projects in which NatureBridge students have the opportunity to participate by sharing their findings from these riverside experiments with local scientists.

NatureBridge educators described the experiments students perform at the Elwha River

The last stop of the day was at the mouth of the Elwha, where it meets the Strait of Juan de Fuca and eventually flows out to the Pacific Ocean. Jen Kidder directed the group's attention to the path the river now takes out to the strait and the ways in which the landscape and sediment deposits have changed since the removal of the dams. Participants shared their "rock and stick" moments from the day in small groups (describing the thing that "rocked" the most and the thing that would "stick" with them after they left). As the wind picked up and the water crashed along the shore, attendees expressed their appreciation for the day's learning and said their goodbyes.

We are grateful to everyone who joined us for these events at our Olympic campus this past weekend, and we hope to see you again soon!

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