Did you build your own water filters out of cotton balls and coffee filters, make homemade rainwater catchment systems, or simulate oil rigs with sand and straws when you were in third grade? Neither did I. Third graders in Chris Bryner’s class got to embark on a journey to learn all about water conservation in and around the Tongass over the course of the last few months through a project called Conservation in the Classroom. This new program, created by myself and Chris Bryner, aimed to teach kids everything about water conservation and how it relates to their lives. Throughout two months, I taught lessons on how water conservation relates to things like pollution, waste, energy, water filtration, and more.
Chris’s classroom is unique in that he uses the model of project based learning. This non traditional and adaptive teaching style gave me the freedom to let kids learn by building and being creative instead of talking at them. They learned how hydropower works by building their own water wheel. They compared this to oil rigs as they created their own ocean with layers of sugar and sand to represent oil and the ocean floor. They saw as they pulled the “oil” out of the water with a straw, the “ocean floor” was disturbed. Instead of me telling them, they got to create the simulation on their own. They could see how hydropower is a clean source of energy and understand how our Blue Lake Dam works.
We talked about the importance of protecting watersheds, which is a huge concept for third graders! Kids crumpled up paper to create miniature mountain peaks. I sprayed water on all of the peaks and they watched it trickle down to create this big watershed. We did the same thing with food dye and saw how far it could travel if you dump a pollutant at the top of a mountain. The kids watched it happen in front of their eyes instead of being told what might happen. After that, the kids asked f we could have a trash pick up day to remove all the garbage from Cutthroat Creek to stop it from spreading.
Sitka Conservation Society’s advocates for protecting the Tongass and promoting ecological resiliency. By teaching third graders why conservation matters, they will have a better understanding of why the Tongass is worth protecting. Through these projects and others that the kids created, we all learned how even though water is abundant here, it relates and impacts other things in the Tongass and should be monitored and protected.
After exploring these things, the kids got to break up into groups and focus on a final project they were most interested in. One group investigated the benefits and drawbacks of the Blue Lake Dam Expansion Project. They went on a tour of the facility, interviewed key people from the project, and talked to Sitkans about what they thought. Another group wanted to know how to proper filter water. They did a Skype interview with a woman who builds filters for families in Africa. The kids were creative, inquisitive, and had incredible results. Conservation in the Classroom was a terrific collaboration between SCS and Chris Bryner’s class. Students walked away with a better understanding of their landscape and how to protect it.
Join the Alaska Way-of-Life club for fun summer activities.The clubs will begin on June 10th and run through July 21st. To register, contact Courtney at 747.7509 or email@example.com.
Alaska way-of-life Hiking Club . Every Wednesday from 2:30 to 4:00 pm Every week, this club will explore a different trail in Sitka and learn new skills like wild edible identification and harvesting, tracking, and GPS/ map work. Open to all ages.
Gardening Club Every Monday from 2:30-4:00 at St. Peters Fellowship Farm and Thursdays (community outteach/filed trips), Kids will be able to get their hands dirty every week at St. Peters Fellowship Farm while learning gardening techniques and skills. Open to all ages.
Water/Kayaking Club Tuesdays 2:30-3:30 pm:
This club will incorporate classes in tides, tying knots, intertidal life, creating survival kits, and kayaking. Ages 8 and older
Within the University of Alaska Southeast, classrooms were teeming with young women eager to deepen their understanding in the field of science. On April 13th, 2013, Girls Scouts of Alaska organized a one-day science symposium in Sitka for its young members and asked Sitka women working in various scientific fields to teach a class that covered information of their choosing.
The Sitka Conservation Society’s community organizer Ray Friedlander participated in the event and chose to discuss and recreate the ecological relationships commonly found throughout the Tongass National Forest from the perspective of Coho salmon.
For the activity, girls ranging from ages 5 to 10 embodied a particular role in the web. Roles included fishermen, aquatic insects, old growth forest, eagles, bears, ocean, and rivers, which were represented by photographs that the girls wore around their necks. The most popular role however was the Coho salmon, which was represented by a stuffed animal toted around by one of the girls as she made her way from Girl Scout to Girl Scout with a red ribbon. As the salmon “swam” its way to each critter or habitat in the web, questions were posed to the group about the significance of that relationship.
“What relationship do you think this salmon has to the old growth forest?” Friedlander asked the group.
“The shade from the trees helps keep the salmon from getting too hot,” said one Girl Scout. “The roots stop the soil from going into the river and making it dirty,” said another.
Each Girl Scout was then asked to loosely hold on to the ribbon, and help answer the questions posed to the other roles of the ecological web. After every role of the web was discussed, the Girl Scouts looked around to see that in fact they were all connected by a ribbon that represented the relationships formed through their species and habitat interactions with the salmon.
Embodying the ecological relationships that exist between different species and habitats of the Tongass allowed Sitka Girl Scouts to see how important it is to view these relationships as interconnected rather than separate. For the Sitka Consevation Society and Girl Scouts of Alaska, inspiring our youth to become stewards of the environment promotes the leadership skills and knowledge needed to ensure a healthy, protected Tongass and sustainable community.
Arguably, to know a place is to know the plants. It’s one thing to appreciate the aesthetics of a certain habitat but another to really know the plants within it. To really know a plant creates a relationship. One that’s based on an understanding and appreciation of seasons, habitat, and life cycle. It’s a give and take—food and medicine (among others) for protection and stewardship.
The Sitka Conservation Society created an opportunity for community members to deepen their relationship to the land through a “spring edibles plant series.” This class explored edible plants in three different habitats: the forest, estuary, and coastline. Students learned how to identify plants, where they are commonly found, harvesting techniques, and preparation methods. And now, we hope, they have a deeper appreciation and connection to the Tongass National Forest.
This course was a partnership with the Kayaani Commission, which was established in 1998 to “preserve and protect the historical and traditional knowledge of the way plants are used.” Kayaani Commissioners shared a customary wisdom, complementing instructor Scott Brylinsky’s extensive knowledge of edibles and plants.
Click here for an online field guide to the wild edibles in the Tongass. Enjoy the tastes of the Tongass!
Saturday, June 8th and Sunday June 9th (we will be camping overnight at Starrigavan Campground, Sitka)
Description: This course will allow participants to learn, practice, and teach the principles of Leave-No-Trace outdoor ethics and will certify participants as LNT Trainers. The Leave-No-Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics is a national organization dedicated to teaching people how to use the outdoor responsibly. It is the largest and most widely accepted and widely used outdoor ethics accreditation program in the nation.
The Training includes 16 hours of hands-on instruction and overnight camping. The course will be held at Starrigavan Campground.
This LNT Trainer Course will focus on the skills to teach Leave-No-Trace as well as practical low-impact outdoor skills. Participants will be asked to prepare a short 10-15 minute lesson on of the Leave-No-Trace principles or other minimum impact topic before the class, then present the lesson during the course. (These lessons are not expected to be perfect. They will provide a learning tool for the group to improve their outdoor teaching skills.)
Who: This course is intended for outfitters, guides, naturalists, Scout leaders, etc., and anyone who would like to have certification to teach Leave-No-Trace skills.
Course Times: The course will begin at 9:30am on Saturday, June 8th and will conclude by 5:00pm on Sunday, June 9th.
Gear: Participants need to bring their own camping gear. SCS has a limited amount of camping gear to loan if necessary. Please pack a lunch for the first day.
Cost: $35.00 per person. The fee covers dinner on Saturday, lunch and dinner on Sunday, drinks, and course materials.
Contact: Please reserve your spot by registering before May 31st. To facilitate your preparation for the course, we recommend an earlier registration if possible. You can register by contacting the Sitka Conservation Society at 907-747-7409 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Instructors: Adam Andis, Master Educator, Sitka Conservation Society
Bryan Anaclerio, Master Educator Trainer, Sitka Conservation Society
Darrin Kelly, Master Educator, USDA Forest Service
The Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) Northwest has placed volunteers in various organizations all over Sitka for nearly two decades, focusing on issues of social and ecological justice. This year, I joined the Sitka Conservation Society team as their first Jesuit Volunteer (JV). Many of the core values of the JVC Northwest program align closely with those of Sitka Conservation Society. Social and ecological justice are important aspects of the work I do at SCS and are crucial values in the JVC Northwest program. My position, Living with the Land & Building Community Jesuit Volunteer, works toward ecological and social justice in several capacities.
My involvement with the Fish to Schools program at SCS is one of many examples of these two organizations, JVC Northwest and SCS, working to achieve the same goal. Fish to Schools coordinates local salmon and rockfish to be served in five Sitka schools. This program promotes not only social justice by allowing students with free and reduced lunches–who may not always have a balanced diet– a chance to eat a healthy local meal at school, but also ecological justice as well. By supporting our local fishermen and teaching students about sustainable fishing, we are influencing students to work towards ecological justice. Aside from my projects, the Sitka Conservation Society has a myriad of programs that advocate and work for ecological justice. Programs like Stream Team, where 7th graders get to spend 3 days outside learning about restoration and proper land management, is only one example in a long list of programs that SCS has created to encourage ecological justice.
Another core value of the JVC Northwest program is community. I live with three other Jesuit Volunteers who are placed at other non-profit organizations in Sitka. We live together, share food, have meals as a community, and support one another. Helping to foster a sense of community continues from my home into my projects at SCS. I lead Alaska Way of Life 4H classes at SCS. One of my main goals is to create a sense of community within our groups. Before every class we play a game or do an activity that allows us to learn about one another. Having weekly classes allows 4H kids to get to know their peers and makes them feel more invested in the community that they are helping to build. After these community building activities, we get to learn and practice new skills together that teach kids how to live with the land. The Alaska Way of Life 4H program has taught kids everything from harvesting wild edibles to tracking.
I am currently working on a project with a third grade class at Keet Gooshi Heen called Conservation in the Classroom. Many aspects of my lessons tie in to the value of simple living from JVC Northwest. My lessons are focused on water conservation in the Tongass. Our projects always take a hands on approach with “project based learning”. The students have done everything from building water catchment systems out of recycled materials to making their own water filters. We do all of our projects of recycled materials to live more simply and sustainably.
Social and ecological justice, community, and simple living are three values that JVC Northwest and the Sitka Conservation Society share and both works towards. It’s been a great opportunity to be a part of SCS and see the parallels between the two organizations.
In 2011, SCS began the Sitka Salmon Tours program. The goal of the tours was to give visitors a salmon’s eye view from the forests where the salmon are born, to the ocean, the fisher and processor, and finally to our plates. We’ve discontinued the Salmon Tours for 2013. Instead, we have distilled all of the great facts, stories, and natural history from the tours into this manual, “Sitka: A Tongass Salmon Town.” Now anyone can be an expert on wild Tongass Salmon. We hope that Sitka residents, guides, and naturalist will use this guide to share the miracle of salmon that attracts tens of thousands of visitors to this place each year.
Printed guides are available at the Sitka Conservation Society office. If you’d like us to mail you a copy, send a request to email@example.com. Bulk copies are available for purchase at-cost (about $0.80 per copy).
Download a copy of the manual HERE.
The first of six boat tours to take place throughout the summer. Mark your calendars!
- June 1st, Saturday 10am
- June 11th, Tuesday 5:30pm – Cancelled
- June 27th, Thursday 5:30pm
- July 23rd, Tuesday 5:30pm
- August 13th, Tuesday 5:30pm
Check back soon for more information on tour topics and speakers. See you on the boat!
A special thanks to Allen Marine for offering discounted charter prices for our non-profit summer tours, which makes this series possible.
THIS CLASS IS FULL. To sign up for the waiting list, send your name, email and phone number to firstname.lastname@example.org..
SCS is organizing a spring edibles course with the Kayaani Commission and instructors Scott Brylinsky and Kitty LaBounty. Students will learn how to identify, harvest, and prepare wild edibles from three distinct habitats in the Tongass.
Registration is required for all three classes:
May 7 and 9, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m
May 11 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
The class is free and space is limited. For more information or to register contact email@example.com or call 747-7509
SITKA CONSERVATION SOCIETY PARTNERS WITH RUNNING FAMILY!
Brett, Kris, David, and Olivia Wilcox are pleased to announce that the Sitka Conservation Society is now partnering with them as they run across America in their efforts to raise awareness about genetically modified organisms that can pose a danger to health and the environment. The Sitka Conservation Society has done extensive advocacy work opposing genetically modified salmon as well as community work to build sustainable food systems. They are partnering with Running The Country because of our joint concerns about genetically modified organisms.
The Wilcox family got their inspiration to run across the country in 2010 when David learned of a teen-aged girl who completed the transcontinental run. “I want to do that!” David said. Over time, David convinced Brett and Kris that he was serious. They decided they would run to promote healthy lifestyles and healthy food choices. “And a big part of healthy eating,” Brett states, “is knowing what’s in our food.”
If successful, David will become the youngest person to complete this run, and David and Brett will become the first father and son team to do so.
While undertaking the run, the Wilcox’s will stop at community centers, public events, scheduled talks, and in public forums, to speak about and raise awareness on genetically modified organisms, their run, and what people can do to secure a safe, non-GMO food supply.
The Sitka Conservation Society sees this project as a great partnership to raise awareness on these important issues. Executive Director Andrew Thoms is enthusiastic about the
program, “We are facing a really scary threat with genetically modified salmon in Alaska. Our community’s livelihoods are intricately connected to Wild Alaska Salmon. Introducing a Frankenstein salmon into the environment could cause disastrous consequences to our wild salmon stocks and our local industry. The more people that know about this threat, the better. Running The Country will help spread the word about what people want for our food system and counter the voices of large food corporations that are pushing GMO foods.”
David showed his appreciation for Alaska’s wild and natural environment while speaking at a “No GMO Salmon” rally in February in Sitka protesting potential FDA approval of the mutant fish. David quoted one of his inspirations in the rally, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when he said, “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”
“GMO salmon is evil, David added. “By being here today and protesting against GMO salmon, you are standing up for what is right.”
“The GMO issue is especially important right now,” Brett says. “California’s Proposition 37 was narrowly defeated in November after Monsanto and other pro-biotech interests poured $46 million into the state, convincing people that GMO food labels would cost too much.”
A 2012 poll of likely voters found that 91% support labeling. (1) “People will argue for many years about the safety of genetically modified foods,” says Brett. “Safe or not, we have a right to know what’s in our food. We also have a right to know who’s profiting from our food choices. With Monsanto’s 100+ year legacy of pollution, corruption, and lies, I personally can not morally justify spending one dime on one Monsanto product.” (2)
Running across America is no small undertaking, and the Wilcox family is raising money and accepting contributions for their efforts. The runners gratefully accept credit cards, PayPal or donations by check. Donations may be made directly on the runners’ web site, runningthecountry.com.
All donations are tax deductible and a receipt will be provided.
For more information regarding the run and the GMO issue, please refer to runningthecountry.com.
1. Mark Mellman, The Hill, April 17, 2012, http://thehill.com/opinion/columnists/mark-mellman/222129-majority-want-more-labels-on-food
2. Jeffrey M. Smith, Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies About the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You’re Eating, (Yes! Books, Fairfield, IA, 2003)