Environmental Happenings In Oregon

Linn-Benton Salmon Watch Succeeds at Educating Local Area Students

Sweet Home, OR | September 30, 2015 – A group of students from Timber Ridge School in Albany stands gathered around an outdoor laboratory temporarily setup along the banks of the South Santiam river. They watch and listen to their leaders for the day, volunteers from OSU and the City of Albany, as they lead the wide-eyed group through testing water samples for dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH, and turbidity. Minutes later they are discussing how these parameters are linked to conditions in the watershed and how they affect the aquatic habitat including the health of salmon.

Salmon Watch is an experiential field trip program that teaches young people about salmon and healthy watersheds.  Traditional Salmon Watch learning topics are: Salmon Biology, Macroinvertebrates, Water Quality, and Riparian Areas.  Similar Salmon Watch programs happen all over the Pacific Northwest and are tailored by various local organizations in partnership with schools and volunteers.

The Linn Benton Salmon Watch program is targeted to 4th – 6th grade students in Linn and Benton Counties.  Field trips take place on the North and South Santiam Rivers in September and on the Alsea River in late October.

"Building familiarity with local salmon runs and where their family's drinking water comes from is critical to becoming responsible citizens and increasing quality of life for everyone.” said Bessie Joyce, Youth Program Coordinator for the Calapooia Watershed Council. “Plus, kids absolutely love this field trip and the science learning happens naturally along the way – we’re extremely fortunate to have volunteers and the support of our donors as to make this all come together.”

Towards the end of the day each student from Timber Ridge has spent about 40 minutes at each of the four stations along this section of the South Santiam. With smiles all around and a few soaked sneakers the students gather around for a wrap-up discussion and Q&A where they express their favorite parts of the day. "These local organizations partnering up with schools to help teach science to students in the outdoors is key to improving education and supporting teachers.”

Great effort goes into each Salmon Watch program year after year and its success relies on the dedication of volunteers, supplies donated from corporate sponsors as well as funds allocated specifically for the program. To get involved – or to donate – please visit our website at www.lbsw.org for more information.

About Linn-Benton Salmon Watch

The Linn Benton Salmon Watch program is coordinated by a committee representing the Calapooia Watershed Council, South Santiam Watershed Council, Mary’s River Watershed Council, Siuslaw National Forest, Trout Unlimited, Benton Soil and Water Conservation District, and OSU Sea Grant.

A workshop empowers teachers to bring nature writing to their classrooms, resulting in students getting published in an established anthology

Not many second graders can say they’re published authors. But thanks to a Nature Writing Workshop at the Straub Environmental Center in 2014, a large group of Salem-area youngsters can boast just that.

For more than a decade, the Straub Environmental Center (SEC) has been a leader in environmental education in the Mid-Willamette Valley. It provides teachers with resources for environmental literacy, holds family nature nights, and leads outdoor retreats and summer day camps, among other programs.

Our hope is that our education programs teach and motivate people to become active stewards in their environment,” says Michelle Cordova, Executive Director. 

One of the SEC’s strengths is its strong relationships across the community, which unite partners and create big wins for everyone involved.

Such was the case with the Introduction to Nature Writing Workshop, which the Gray Family Foundation funded in 2014. Cordova had a relationship with a group called Honoring our Rivers, which publishes a youth anthology of river-related poetry, art, and nature writing. The anthology was looking for ways to get new submissions, and Cordova saw an opportunity.

She utilized a Gray Family Foundation grant to train 20 elementary and middle school teachers over the summer in how to lead nature-writing workshops with their students. The teachers took new skills and tools back to their classrooms. The result was a flood of wonderful submissions from students for the anthology, and some new opportunities for the kids to get outside.

“If you're talking 30 kids per class and 20 teachers, it's a huge impact. A lot of those kids are going to be officially published at the end. How cool is that, a second grader being able to say that they're published already?" Cordova says.

“I would love to do this every year. It is so in line with our mission, and so in line with Honoring our Rivers' mission, and it's reaching out to the teachers and supporting them where they needed help.”




Stormwater Stewards - Stormwater science lab and field activities for middle and high school students

The connected article presents in-depth and hands-on stormwater curricula which has been used successfully by many Portland teachers. It is our hope that educators interested in hydrology, urban ecology and engineering solutions to environmental problems will replicate or modify it for their use. It may be particularly useful for educators with stormwater mitigation sites on or near their school site.

Our ten-week inquiry aims to increase students’ environmental literacy, specifically their knowledge, dispositions and skills, and to teach students relevant ecological principles to urban and natural hydrology. It also provides students with engineering and field research skills, while developing a personal sense of stewardship. In what follows, you will find the key questions, along with a detailed description of the main activities of the inquiry. 

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Teens in the Umpqua Explorers program gain self-confidence, friendships, and knowledge of the natural world.

Growing up in the lush Umpqua River Valley, a teenager might take for granted the rich natural heritage in his or her backyard.

The Douglas County Museum aims to change that.

“The museum is all about inspiring our community to see the big picture, and to feel like they're connected to each other and to the environment,” says Kelly Hibbert, Museum Education Coordinator.

For the past seven summers, Hibbert has led groups of 13- to 17-year-olds to become museum leaders, teachers and outdoor adventurers through Umpqua Explorers program.

With a grant from the Gray Family Foundation in 2014, the museum was able to provide this program to families free of charge.

Umpqua Explorers learn firsthand the joys of volunteering. The teens run the “free day” at the museum each Tuesday, leading activities with younger kids. They help with the museum’s website and outreach to the community.


“I think we are creating lifelong museum visitors,” Hibbert says. Several of the youth have even gone on to study history in college.

But it’s not all indoors. The eclectic mix of teens—from hunters to computer geeks to youth from the local homeless shelter—find unity on several wild adventures over the summer.

In July 2014, a four-day road trip took 15 teens to Crater Lake, the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, and the Warm Springs Museum.

"Those are things that some of these kids haven't had an opportunity to experience,” Hibbert says.

Timber has been the main economy in the Roseburg area, and many children come from logging families. “It's cool to be able to talk about the future of the land in which we live.”





Students become scientists through StreamWebs

It’s a warm spring morning as sixth-grade students from Eddyville Charter School tromp through the forest to get to their field site. For most of them, this is their fist visit as scientists, but they have been studying data from the site in class and will return three times a week throughout the unit. Sean Bedell—their teacher—is using the Oregon Sea Grant (OSG) StreamWebs program to meaningfully engage his students in citizen science.

“I show them all of these different sample methods like transects and temperature, and the kids come up with their own research questions,” Bedell said.

StreamWebs is just one of many active citizen science programs throughout Oregon. The project involves middle and high school students adopting a field site and collecting data on things like water quality or invasive species.  The larger goal is to expose students to science in a fun way that still has relevance.

“Using StreamWebs allows you take your typical field trip and make it more of a lab,” said Megan Kleibacker, an OSG employee who helps lead StreamWebs. “There are different things you need to do to hit on Next Generation Science Standards, and StreamWebs allows for that.”  

In 2010, Kleibacker helped integrate StreamWebs into OSG after it lost the support of its prior sponsor. The switch required her to identify new sources of funding since StreamWebs is entirely supported by grants. She says that sponsors were excited by the scientific rigor of a program that still offered a fun experience for students.

“StreamWebs offered something that other programs didn’t, and that was a connection between real, meaningful field work for students and classroom work,” Kleibacker explained.

StreamWebs also hosts a detailed website where classes and individual students can post their data. The searchable database provides a way for students to compare their data against previous years, and graph changes over time.

To date, over 400 students have utilized the StreamWebs program to connect with science. Kleibacker hopes to start tracking program alumni in the future to see where students end up after becoming scientists at a young age.