Stories from the Field

NatureBridge Receives Diversity Award for Elwha Program

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It’s a classic case of “the good news and the bad news.” First the good: I’m pleased to announce that E3 Washington (formerly Environmental Education Association of Washington) has awarded NatureBridge the 2012 E3 Washington Award of Excellence for Diversity in Action, along with our program partners, The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and Western Carolina University!

This award exemplifies the inspiring work we do every day, but specifically focuses on the Elwha Science Education Project, which provides students, primarily those from the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, an opportunity to learn about the cultural and natural history of the Elwha River through scientific discovery and investigation.

“The program has encouraged students and other Native Americans living in the area to do well in their education! It helps them learn science and the connections science has to traditional beliefs,” said Brenda Lovik, the Native American academic support educator for the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe.

History is happening right now! #

For the past five years, Lower Elwha KIallam Tribe youth have been immersed in the science and ancestral culture of the river and its surrounding areas. In September, students watched history unfold as two dams on the Elwha River, which altered the riparian ecosystem for more than a century, began to come down. Through the Elwha Science Education Project, tribal youth engaged in the history, science, and impact of the dams. Now, as the river begins to run free, they have an even greater opportunity to engage and discover a new ecosystem. They have a chance to connect to this place like never before—to uncover a place that tells stories of the past, present, and future.

We know this project is a valuable community asset, and we continue to hear about the positive impacts on students, parents, and teachers.

“Families ask about the program, thank us for the positive changes they have seen in their children, and anticipate when their younger children get to attend,” said Latrisha Ollom-Suggs, assistant director Elwha River restoration.

If you are not familiar with this program, I encourage you to take a moment to read Preparing for a New River from Smithsonian magazine—the story eloquently captures the essence of their experiences.

It's a bittersweet moment #

Okay, so here’s the bad news. Though we are thrilled to receive this recognition, I bear the sad news that we are not likely to continue this project; we are unable, at this time, to secure ongoing or replacement funding. The National Science Foundation was generous in their five-year grant, creating the partnership between the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and our colleagues from Western Carolina University—we are grateful. However, it is distressing to see an award-winning program end. Really…this is just the beginning on the Elwha River.

This is a historic time, and the dam removal is one of the signature restoration projects of our day. Sustaining the tribe’s connection to the river and educating future generations is a vital part of their history, the river’s history, and our history. We remain hopeful that we can identify donors to support and sustain this award-winning project.

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