This week at Cabrillo National Monument as you walked to the Visitors Center you may have overheard a kindergartener teaching an adult about the poisonous aspects of a Spanish Shawl Nudibranch, glanced at a cluster of ceramic California Mussels designed by students, been lectured by a first grader about the moon cycles or watched a stop action film on how to protect the Brown Sea Hare. Science education and communication comes in many forms. In the National Park Service, education is mostly seen to the public through Ranger-led programs or educational films and handouts. In the school system, it is seen in the classroom through teacher based instruction. However, here at Cabrillo National Monument, we are trying to switch that framework to provide students with the tools to be the next generation of environmental stewards.
On May 31st, 2017 from 10 – 12 am, we hosted the High Tech Elementary – North County exhibition, where one-hundred kindergarten and first grade students presented conservation stop action short films, hand-designed ceramic tidepool critters, creature feature books, conservation paintings and published activity books that were all designed by themselves. The short films were shown in thirty minute cycles in the auditorium, where the students could escort their family members, friends and other park visitors. The ceramic critters were laid out with student ambassadors surrounding to help explain to visitors where each animal lives in relation to the intertidal zones. Creature feature books were read aloud by the students to visitors in a make-shift reading circle. Conservation paintings were displayed around the park for visitors to read and appreciate. Finally, the activity books were set out on tables for visitors to participate in collaboration with the students. At each station, student ambassadors were available to answer questions, inform the visitors, and above all teach the public about the rocky intertidal and what it means to be an environmental steward.
The Lewis and Clark National Historical Park was established in 2004 to commemorate the journey of Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery through the Pacific Northwest. The park includes various sites: Salt Works, Dismal Nitch, the reconstruction of Fort Clatsop, the Fort to Sea trail, Cape Disappointment, and the Middle Village (qí’qayaqilam)/Station Camp. Fort Clatsop was the first military fort west of the Rockies where Lewis and Clark camped, traded with Clatsop natives, and hunted elk during the harsh winter of 1805. The Lewis and Clark National Historical Park preserves, restores and interprets important historical, cultural and natural resources along the lower Columbia River area (Foundation Document). The park, comprising of numerous state and NPS units, encompasses 3,245 acres of land within Washington and Oregon. Sitka spruce stand tall throughout the coastal temperate rainforest, emergent marshes provide habitat for local wildlife, and the stream channel is essential for the survival of young salmon. In order to restore and preserve the natural resources that were so valuable to the Corps of Discovery, the natives, and for future generations, the park resources management team works on restoration projects within the park and in collaboration with other partnerships.
This is where my story interweaves with Lewis and Clarks’. I am a Mosaics in Science Intern working with the National Park Service to process vegetation monitoring data that has been collected for the past ten years for the Columbia Estuary Ecosystem Restoration Program. While I have been here, I have learned that restoration projects consist of of many moving parts. Grants are tedious and provide the funding for these projects to exist. Partnerships with organizations such as the Northwest Oregon Restoration Partnership (NORP), allow for the sharing of technical expertise, growing of nat
ive plants, and grant matching for the restoration projects to be successful. Biological technicians, interns, and volunteers go out into the field to handle invasive plant species to allow native plants to flourish. Native plants are grown at the park nursery to plant thousands of young plants to regenerate habitats. Forest thinning remove Douglas fir, remnants of logging plantings to allow the native Sitka spruce and big leaf Maple to prosper and create disturbance for forest renewal. Restoration projects are necessary to restore the ecological processes that have been destroyed by anthropogenic influences. Logging and pasture grazing have transformed what used to be lush, thriving environments for many wildlife and plants.
Every day is an adventure; I get to participate at partnership meetings, learn about native plants, and be part of a larger effort to restore this beautiful place for all to enjoy.
“I slept and dreamt that life was joy, awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold service was joy.” –Rabindranath Tagore, Indian poet
In last week’s post, I briefly introduced what I will be working on at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument this summer. After meeting with my supervisors earlier this week, my project task has now been solidified. I will be creating a Geology/Paleontology summer camp for students (Grades 4th-6th) from socioeconomically disadvantaged communities. This camp would be implemented in the summer of 2018. However, this summer will see the testing of many of the planned activities for the camp, both on and offsite. My first task was to create an outline of the activities and daily themes the camp will have. After an hour-long discussion with my supervisors on Friday afternoon, we decided it would be a good idea for me to host a brown bag meeting next Friday where I will present my summer camp outline to the entire (or most) staff for extra feedback and suggestions.
A big component of my project requires me to do community outreach. I stressed to my supervisors that although the main focus of this camp is to get students excited about geology and paleontology, we must also focus on getting the community and parents involved in the camp. Just as the famous African proverb states “It takes a village to raise a child”, it also takes an entire community to raise a scientist. This coming week I will be meeting with an elementary teacher from Colorado Springs who participated in the National Park Service’s Teacher-Ranger-Teacher program for ideas on how to engage students in science. Then on Saturday, I will head into Denver for the Get Outdoors Colorado event where I plan to meet with other outdoor educators and build a strong network and support system.
Quick sneak peak into the camp: On one of the camp days, students will go down to the local Florissant Fossil Quarry to sift through sheets and sheets of paper shale in search of fossils. I can attest to the excitement and addiction this activity brings, as all of us interns at Florissant Fossil Beds lost track of time while digging for fossils at the quarry. The best part about the quarry, you get to keep your findings!