Sitka Girl Scouts Learn Tongass Forest Food Web, Ecological Relationships

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.

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