S’more Knowledge, S’more Fun: Kulshan Creek at Lyman Slough
Kulshan Creek Neighborhood Youth Program is a year-round educational program that engages young people ages 5 to 18 from two Skagit Valley neighborhoods in a series of monthly field trips to explore the outdoors and learn about our local watersheds.
The weather is ominous. Big, gray rain clouds, wind and chilly temps definitely impacted the number of students that turned out, but the smaller number does not diminish the palpable excitement.
A big yellow school bus sitting in the parking lot is the backdrop for our greeting. As we approach the kids standing around it, they come running, big grins plastered on their faces and brimming with excitement and energy. Their enthusiasm is contagious and Kay and myself find ourselves just as giddy! After initial introductions we all eat lunch together, but instead of sitting down, we have to dance around the shelter in order to stay warm. There is nothing better than bonding through dance!
Before we head down to Lyman Slough, Ben led a rousing round of the Starfish warm-up! Shake it out!
We walk a short distance from the park down to the slough where we get to learn a little bit about what a slough is and what the Skagit Land Trust does in this area with restoration and land management.
Then we get to play!
When learning about a watershed, one of the most important concepts to understand is the water cycle.
Kay brought GIANT dice for us to make the water cycle happen, plus we also got to make a super cool bracelet. Each student starts at a location where water is stored in nature – clouds, ocean, rivers, lakes, groundwater, plants, animals, soil. There is a dice at each of these locations with at least one side representing that location, and all the other sides representing all the different places the water could travel to, based on the process of the water cycle. At each of these locations there is also a colored bead. The kids collect a bead at each location and roll the dice to see where they get to go next and collect the next bead. At the end they had a unique bracelet as well as a visual representation of all the places that they, as a water molecule, had traveled.
It was incredible to watch these kids experience the water cycle and have a tangible take-away from the lesson, rather than simply lecturing and giving them the facts and basics of the process.
After the water cycle we got to explore watersheds.
What is a watershed? How do seasonal changes affect the watershed? What watershed are we in at Lyman Slough? What are pollutants that can affect the watershed and where do they come from? In exploring these questions we created our own watershed out of waxed paper, markers and a spray bottle and watched as pollutants mixed as it rained.
We then explored what happens during the seasons as water flows down from the headwaters and all the tributaries to the mouth of the river. Music set the beat of the season, and water was represented by starbursts. During the spring and fall the starburst flowed fast and heavy; during the winter and hot, hot summer, flow was much slower.
It was a tangible way for the students to experience first hand how season, temperature and precipitation affect the flow of the river and tributaries. After we finished, we got to eat the “water”!
Foot races were quite the focus of the day, so after all the lessons we raced!
The last activity of the day was by far the favorite. We made s’mores! For many of the kids, this was their first time ever making and most importantly, eating the delicious combination of toasty, roasted marshmallows, melted chocolate and crunchy graham crackers. Before we were able to roast our marshmallows, we had the opportunity to hear about Greg’s experience working for the National Forest Service on the fire crew and as a first generation college student. It was an incredible chance for these students to start thinking about what they want to do with their futures and how their interests can guide their careers!
Overall the day was a fun, learning-filled adventure that allowed students to connect with their watershed and community in a new way and eat delicious snacks along the way!
Written by Ash Dina Kunz, Cohort 16 Graduate Student.
All photos taken by Ash Dina Kunz.