The beginning of the 4-H Alaska Way of Life kayaking camp was on land. The kayakers learned the parts of the boat, the safety equipment and what to do if tipped over. Then they were ready to get on the water! Majority of these 4-H members had never been in a kayak before.
Photo by Lione Clare
The next three days at Swan Lake, the 4-her’s got to try out technical skills like forward and backward paddling strokes and using the rudder with foot pedals. With double kayaks, the 4-h members partnered and worked on communication and teamwork to get their kayak moving the right direction. As a group, everyone worked on kayaking together in a called a pod.
Photo by Lione Clare
Rough winds kept us at Swan Lake an extra day, but even wind and rain could not dampen our spirits! The 4-H members discussed why high winds would be a very bad combination for kayaking on the ocean. We all agreed that conditions were much safer on the Lake!
Photo by Lione Clare
Luckily, the next day gave us beautiful weather! The last day at Mosquito Cove held new challenges for everyone. The ocean provided the waves and currents that kept everyone paddling hard. Everyone put in his or her best efforts, and as the 4-h motto reminds, from here out, their best will only get better!
Photo by Lione Clare
Along with learning the practice skills of kayaking safety and teamwork, this camp allowed 4-H members to enjoy nature in a new way, especially at such young ages. The youngest 4-H members were going into kindergarten this fall, and have already spent a 4 days of kayaking! Having a personal connection with nature inspires youth to become stewards of the Tongass.
To start the 4-H Outdoor Skills series, the Alaska Way of Life 4-H project members learned about water filters and what to carry in a first aid kit! The 4-H members experimented using sand, pebbles and gravel as filters for water. They discovered that water filters have different pores sizes. They learned how to set up a gravity filter and watched as the stream water was filtered. 4-Hers also had a discussion about where a person should get their water, even if it is going to be filtered. The 4-H members then learned what to carry in a first aid kit.
Photo by Lione Clare
As the series continued, the 4-Hers gathered twigs and sticks for a beach campfire. Down on the beach, the 4-Her’s practiced Leave No Trace ethics while learning how to build a fire. Our campfire was built below the high tide so the waves could wipe away all traces! Once the fire was going, everyone enjoyed some yummy roasted marshmallows. After the fire building, the 4-H club worked together to find a campsite, set up a tent, and carefully put it away.
Photos by Lione Clare
4-Her’s got to try their hand at tying knots: an essential wilderness skill. After practicing the square knot and the slipknot, we walked to find the perfect tree for a bear hang! A great way to keep bears away from food while camping. With the completion of this series, these 4-Her's have some of the necessary skills to explore the Tongass!
Photo by Sarah Komisar
Sitka Conservation Society and Sitka Native Education Program teach Sitka’s youth how to respect and process deer
The Sitka Conservation Society’s Alaska Way of Life 4-H program (SCS) and Sitka Native Education Program (SNEP) partnered this January to teach Sitka’s youth how to process one of Sitka’s local bounties: deer. The children from the 4-H program and SNEP Culture Class learned from Chuck Miller (SNEP Youth Program Coordinator) as he removed the hide from the animal and taught much more than just how to butcher a deer.
Miller shared with students what the customary traditional practices of deer processing entail. The first thing he pointed out was that the head of the deer was missing. Chuck explained that the brain of the deer could be mixed with urine and used to tan the hides long ago. Chuck said,
“It is important to not waste, and it is disrespectful to the animal to say ‘eww’ or ‘that’s gross’ because that animal gave up its life for you, so you can live.”
The children were certainly not squeamish. No ‘ew’s resounded from the audience of eager and fascinated onlookers. The children learned that the hoofs could be boiled down and used for rattling sticks to dance with. The hide was removed carefully, and the kids discovered that it could be used for clothing or drums. The children eagerly peered over each other to get a look at the heart, liver, and stomach. Chuck explained that the tendons are so strong that they have been used for battle armor, dream catchers, and to latch many things together.
The class also discussed the Alaska Department of Fish and Game regulations and the importance of limitations on does for protecting fawns to conserve the population.
Miller shared with students how to respect the animal by properly processing the meat, as well as by not wasting parts of the deer. He then explained how respecting the animal transfers to respect for the community; the first deer you get for the year should never be kept to yourself.
“You give it away to somebody who is a widow, an elder, or both. You want to make sure you take care of people in the community who cannot hunt for themselves and our elders.” One of the boys in the group whispered to his friend “I’ll give it to my grandma”.
The class was able see the deer processing steps all the way from removing the hide to wrapping the meat in freezer paper. The kids shared stories of their own deer hunting experiences and favorite recipes as they packaged the meat. Students were enthralled and walked away with both a practical understanding of the deer butchering process as well as a stronger respect for this treasured resource.
The Sitka Conservation Society looks forward to partnering with the Sitka Native Education Program in the future to teach Sitka’s youth how to live with the land and build community.
Chuck Miller shows a captive audience the importance of respecting the animal and native traditions through the sacred process of butchering a deer.
Students were enthused to see the steps of proper deer processing all the way from removing the hide to wrapping the meat in freezer paper while learning values of respect and community.
Hydrologist K.K. Prussian from the U.S. Forest Service taught 4-Hers of the importance and process of stream measurements during a rainy night hike.
The sun sets before 4pm during a Sitkan Winter. This fact leads to most after-school activities being held indoors. During November and December, the Sitka Spruce Tips 4-H Club enjoyed nature after dark as they learned of Sitka’s plant diversity, hydrology, and soil.
Before we started each hike, 4-H members were reminded of the safety tips necessary for our adventure: group behavior, bear awareness and visibility.
On our first hike the 4-Hers learned that having a healthy ecosystem is dependent on having a variety of plants and animals. During the second night hike 4-H members learned of soil properties from U.S. Forest Service Soil Scientist, Jacquie Foss, by getting their hands dirty and discussing color and texture. The last hike focused on stream measurements such as velocity, turbidity, and temperature. The kids made theories on what different measurements could mean for fish and stream health. The 4-H Club was lucky to have a soil scientist and hydrologist explore with us and learn of their careers and the soil and water around us.
The 4-H club had a blast learning of different soil textures with Soil Scientist Jacquie Foss from the Forest Service.
Visiting Forest Service Wildlife Technician, Gwen Baluss carefully loosens the tie of a little sac and slowly reaches in. Delicately grasping the fragile creature within, she reveals the dark eyed junco to a resounding “AWE” echoing across the classroom as students pile on top of one another to get a closer look.
For the third year in a row, Baluss has returned to Sitka to continue studying and teaching the community about bird ecology. While juncos and other songbirds may frequent our feeders and whistle familiar songs during our afternoon strolls, there is still ample mystery to these birds. Scientists and land managers know relatively little about their range, distribution and migration ecology for one. Secondly, very few of us have been lucky enough to encounter our skittish feathered friends up close. As one of the participants ruefully commented, “The closest I’ve ever been to one of these birds has been sweeping away the unfortunate remains the cat dragged in.” “Don’t worry,” she facetiously reassured the bird banding team, “This will be my last cat.”
Last week, Blatchley middle school students, Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary classes, Sitka High students and the Sitka Conservation Society’s (SCS) 4-H program experienced a more pleasant close encounter with our beloved song birds. In the frosted garden behind Blatchley Middle school, Baluss and Scott Harris, the Conservation Science Director with the Sitka Conservation Society carefully and delicately untangle tiny trapped birds from the mist nets. Baluss bands their legs and the team begin taking measurements. Gwen’s enthusiasm for these often overlooked natural wonders peaks as she explains to wide-eyed students how the sheen of a junco’s eyes changes with age from gray to red, how males boast darker plumage atop their heads and how a surprising diversity between individual juncos exists if you just take the time to look carefully. Captivated students edge closer as she starts blowing tenderly on the bird’s belly to reveal yellow fat deposits visible beneath their paper-thin skin. The classroom is fully engaged.
Southeast Alaska offers diverse opportunities for scientific inquiry and exploration just a few yards from the school door. With the 17 million acre Tongass National Forest as our backyard, children here grow up immersed in this outstanding landscape. Experiences like Gwen’s visit, encourage our youth to approach exploring the environment from an academic or potentially career-driven perspective. Students continue to steward this project throughout the year. In the past, a Sitka High School student Naquioa Bautista, working with the Science Mentor Program coordinated by SCS, based her science fair project on studying the banded bird’s movement. From Naquoia’s study, we learned that Sitka’s winter juncos do not stray very far from their banding sites. On the back wall of Ms. Dick’s 6th grade science classroom, a modern twist on the infamous ‘wanted poster’ is displayed, showing each tagged bird and their band color combination. Students, families and all of Sitka’s residents are encouraged to keep a lookout for tagged birds on their feeders or fluttering about on the trails (please report sightings here).
This week, a few lucky students were given a particularly memorable experience. After a bit of fumbling, the student’s tiny hands encapsulated the virtually weightless fragile feathered mess, their tiny heartbeat pumping against the student’s palm. After taking a knee, the top hand would slowly lift and in an instant burst of energy, the birds would return to the trees of our backyards leaving only tiny soft floating feathers in the air and grins of admiration across each onlooker’s face.
This project is supported by the University of Alaska Southeast’s Natural History Seminar Series, the Sitka Charitable Trust, the Sitka Conservation Society and UAS Biology professor Kitty LaBounty. Gwen Baluss is a biologist with the US Forest Service in the Juneau Ranger District and a member of Juneau’s Audobon Society. Please report any banded bird sightings to [email protected] or report to the Southeast Alaska Long-term Monitoring Network (SALMoN) . To learn more about Sitka’s 4-H program including how to enroll visit our 4-H page.
Two weeks ago, youth volunteers from 4-H harvested apples that were grown as a result of one of the initiatives from the 2010 Sitka Health Summit. Volunteers and their parents came together once again to decorate fabric for mason jars and to cook applesauce. The aptly-named event, Applooza, was hosted by the Sitka Kitch at the First Presbyterian Church. Sitka Conservation Society, in conjunction with the Sitka Food Co-Op and the Sitka Local Foods Network, supported and promoted this event. SCS staff members Mary Wood and Sarah Komisar encouraged the engagement of youth volunteers, providing the 4H participants with an opportunity to make a valuable contribution to our community while educating them about the importance of local food production and consumption. The beautifully-decorated jars of applesauce were donated to the Swan Lake Senior Center and the Salvation Army.
To increase the future capacity for successful food projects like Applooza, SCS will be sponsoring the planting of additional apple trees in Sitka. Please join us for our ‘Apple a Day’ apple tree workshop next week. Our Yale Fellow, Michelle Huang, has been working with Jud Kirkness to plan the event. Jud will be on hand to present everything you need to know about apple trees. We will have ordering instructions on hand and encourage everyone to order a tree. We have a goal of increasing the number of apple trees in Sitka by 15 this year! SCS will also be ordering an apple tree for the Pacific High school campus.
This is something SCS, Sitka Kitch, Sitka Local Foods Network and the Sitka Food Co-op would like to see become an annual event. Special thanks to all the Sitkans who supported this event through donations of jars, time, knowledge and offered up their apple trees for harvesting, including the trees at KCAW.
The Alaska Way-of-Life 4-H learned of wild edible food in Sitka! The 4-H members spent six weeks gaining knowledge of edible plants such as huckleberries, mushrooms, and rosehips. 4-Hers learned how to preserve local foods by making jam and fruit leather. They also enjoyed huckleberry granola bars and pine needle tea. Each 4-H member recorded the processes and recipes in their journals so they can make these wild edibles at home. Understanding the local bounty is an essential skill of the Alaskan Way-of-Life.
Our first foraging adventure this fall took place on three different trails in Sitka on the search of red huckleberries! 4-Hers learned how to identify the plant by its square stem and observing the leaves and distribution of berries. We practiced respect for the forest and conservation by leaving enough berries for the plant, animals, and other humans.
During our second week, 4-Hers learned the processing of preserving berries by transforming them into jam. Many kids were surprised that the recipe only called for four ingredients: berries, lemon juice, pectin, and sugar.
4-H members kept recipe jourals of ingredients and directions throughout the series on how to make jam, fruit leather, huckleberry granola bars, and pine needle tea.
Kitty LaBounty, UAS biology professor and mycologist, joined 4-H as a special guest speaker on the 4H mushroom hunt during our third week of Wild Edibles. We were able to find winter chanterelles and various russulas and identified their cap, stalk, teeth or gills. The kids learned how the fungi work with forest in decomposition and were amazed to hear the uses of some mushrooms, such as tie-dye!
The wild rose grows in many parts of Alaska, including Sitka’s gardens. Many parts of the this plant are edible: shoots in a spring salad, petals in tea in the summer, or rose hips in the fall. Rose hips are the bright red fruit of rose, which can be eaten as a snack, or used in jelly or fruit leather.
Halfway through the Wild Edibles series, our Alaska Way-of-Life 4H club learned how to harvest rosehips and preserve them into fruit leather. The kids worked hard mashing the rose hips in a food mill to create a puree which was then dehydrated for the fruit leather.
4-Hers explored the Tongass and learned of even more Wild Edible food during a day hike. Fiddlehead ferns, pine tree needles, licorice root and spruce tips were identified. We also discussed uses of mosses for insulation or dressings, skunk cabbage for salmon smoking, and hemlock for herring roe.
4-H enjoyed pine needle tea from muskeg pine trees and granola bars which featured huckleberries from our first harvest.
We concluded the series by giving our hands to larger service by giving our jam back to community members.
The Alaska Way-of-Life 4Hers are learning by doing and giving back to the community. The more experiences they have in our Tongass National Forest, the more appreciation they will have for the Alaska way-of-life. They harvested from the land and built community while making new friends during our series. Since they have their own recipes books, the 4-Hers will be able to share their knowledge with family and friends. These 4-H members are now able to identify the plants in the muskeg, forest, urban settings, and make food from what they find. It was wonderful to see their thoughtfulness while giving to community members at the Sitka Pioneer’s Home and those who helped make this series possible.
The Alaska Way of Life 4-H project had a fun summer of gardening, exploring the forest and beach, listening to birds, kayaking in the Sitka Sound, and learning how to sew; all while creating a sense of belonging among new friends in Sitka! This fall we will get dirty harvesting Sitka's Wild Edibles and learning some basic food preservation skills.
The new 4-H year is just around the corner! It is time to wrap up current projects andthink about updating member registration. For new and old members, the forms to complete registration are below:
What is 4-H? Check out the brochure link below!
"Living with the land" means having knowledge and familiarity with the natural environment that surrounds you. Part of that knowledge is knowing what are the edible plants in the environment and when they are ready for harvest. On the outer coast of Alaska in the Tongass National Forest, that also means knowing what seaweeds are edible. Knowing Seaweeds means knowing when they are in best conditions for harvest, how they are processed, and what they can be used for.
Although there are great books on identifying plants and seaweeds and recipes for preparing, sometimes the best information (and most locally pertinent), comes from spending time with elders and listening to what they have learned over their lifetimes.
In this video, SCS staff Scott Harris, Tracy Gagnon, and Adam Andis spent a morning with long-time SCS board member Bob Ellis and absorbed some of his wisdom about seaweeds in the intertidal zones of the Sitka Sound.
The Alaska Way of Life 4-H is gearing up for Summer!!
Cloverbud Adventure:Tuesdays, 10 - 11:30am
4-H members will be able to explore various 4-H projects throughout the summer including hiking, intertidal life, plant identification, and much more! Open to grades K-3.
Cloverbud Gardening: Fridays, 9-10am
Kids will be able to get their hands dirty every week at St. Peter's Fellowship Farm while learning gardening techniques and skills. Open to grades K-3.
4-H Cooking: Wednesday, July 2, 9, 16 from 10:30am - 12:30pm
4-H members will be able to explore various cooking with wild greens, salmon, and garden harvest. Open to grades 3-6.
4-H Land and Sky: July 7-11 from 3-4:30pm
Partnering with the National Historical Park, 4-H will explore learning wild edible identification, bird behavior and migration, intertidal life, and macro invertebrates. Open to grades 4-8.
4-H Kayak Adventure: July 22-25 1:30-4pm
This club will incorporate classes on tides, tying knots,inter-tidallife, water safety, and kayaking. Open togrades 4 and above.
Register with Mary by calling 747-7509 or e-mailing [email protected] I ask that 4-H members strive for 95% attendance if signing up for the activities. Our program is about building community as well as living with the land, which is achieved by attending each activity in the series. Please Register by May 31.