2017 has been full of developing and putting into action new educational programs at our local State Parks on Whidbey. This effort was made possible by help from our awesome partners, Washington State Parks and the Lighthouse Environmental Programs (LEP). Our work plan for the year was a five-pronged approach including Interpretive 101 training for SWS volunteers, environmental programs for school groups, Junior Ranger programs, guided walks, and activities at festivals in the State Park.
Janet Hall, the State Park Interpretive Specialist, and I provided two Interpretive 101 trainings to SWS volunteers interested in leading education programs in the State Parks. The first was geared to school groups and kids. The second was geared towards guided walks. Between the two classes we trained 21 volunteers.
We began in April with “school group season”. Schools from all over Washington visit Fort Casey State Park every year. We were given the opportunity to offer three environmental classes as options for schools to choose from, in addition to the State Park offerings of Fort and/or Lighthouse tours. Our three activities included Marine Web of Life, Plankton, and a Marine Bio-degradable Timeline.
SWS volunteers assisted Janet Hall this year at her many Junior Ranger Programs which varied in topics from birds to tree rings. We developed 2 new, marine-focused Junior Ranger Programs to add to the mix, called the Barnacle Bonanza and the Plankton Party, which were a hit!
In September, we hosted our first guided walk which highlighted the unique beach at Fort Casey State Park and was led by volunteer member Bill Cromley. 16 attendees joined us on this maiden beach tour, and we received a lot of positive feedback. SWS will be planning many more walks for next year.
Also, SWS hosted booth activities at two State Park festival/events. One was National Lighthouse Days and the second was the First Annual Family Outdoor Discovery Day. At each event, we hosted two fun educational activities. At the two events, we had 310 children who visited and learned something new and exciting about our local environment.
Since April 2017 we have taught over 1,500 children and adults! Overall this year has been a lot of work but at the same time has been full of great experiences with children from all over! I love observing the moment when a child truly connects with nature. We learned a lot from our work this year and are ready to take on next year with our 2018 plan in hand!
Jon Crimmins, Central Whidbey State Parks Area Manager stated, “It is exciting to see State Parks and Sound Water Stewards partner to offer high quality educational experiences in the Central Whidbey Area parks. All spring I enjoyed watching school buses full of energetic kids come through the gates ready and eager to learn and leave with a deeper appreciation and understanding of the natural and historical world around them.”
I want to say a special thank you to Janet Hall for all her support and expertise and to the brave SWS Volunteers who made this year’s education programs a success! Thank you!