Umpqua Watersheds Blog


AmeriCorps Update

Published June 18th, 2019 in Education-AmeriCorps

AmeriCorps Voice…..Christine Smith

The fact that this article is my last one is unbelievable. These past two years have been filled with growth, amazing connections and so much fun in the environmental education world. Maris and I are maximizing our last few weeks by teaching at as many camps and outdoor schools as we can. We are constantly focused on creating unforgettable experiences for the youth of Douglas County. I am glad to be ending this chapter of my life on such high notes.

May brought our final Crater Lake trips. We braved a flurry of snow with North Douglas Elementary and had beautiful weather with Fir Grove Elementary and Hucrest Elementary. Watching the students’ jaws drop when they see the great blue lake never gets old.

May also brought my final Science Wednesday. It took place at Eastwood School; they have an amazing campus for outdoor activities such as compass and GPS navigation. We were so lucky for the weather this season that we did many of our activities in the great outdoors. I also have exciting news! I applied for a grant through the Gray Family Foundation to boost our Science Wednesday program and make it sustainable for years to come. We received three thousand dollars to get tons of awesome education supplies such as tree ring exploration kits, animal skull models, soil sieves and more. Included in the grant was updated training and environmental education curriculum for our future educators at UW. Many of these supplies have already been put to great use at Science Wednesdays, the library preschool program and at the camps where we’ve been teaching.

Camp Eastwood is the fifth grade campout at Eastwood School to celebrate nature, science and the end of elementary school. It is evident that the teachers have an amazing dynamic with their students and are dedicated to providing them with as many unique opportunities as possible. Maris and I acted as camp counselors for the week; we pitched our tents on campus with the students and each led our own group to their stations and on hikes. Educators from all over the county filled the three days with experiences such as gold panning, hunting for macroinvertebrates and line dancing.

We’ve also been station leaders at many other outdoor schools in the area. At Hucrest’ Outdoor School, I led a teaching session on water chemistry and Maris led one on soils. I will be teaching about animal skulls and food chains at Green Elementary outdoor school and Maris will be leading compass navigation. Many new connections have been made through these camps and I’ve had many students recognize me from Forest Thursday or their Science Wednesday program which is a delight. Forest Thursday is about to wrap up for the season. We’ve explored many forest creatures and concepts through art at the Boys and Girls Club.

Our connection with Fremont Middle School’s Natural Resources class has made for some extraordinary experiences. We’ve harvested lots of goodness from their garden and had cooking parties. We’ve also gone on field trips to Wildlife Safari and Stewart Park. At Stewart Park, the students released fish they’ve been raising. It was a special moment for them to see their fish scurry off into the river.

I’m incredibly thankful for the people I’ve met through UW who inspire me and for the students who make it all worth it. I plan on continuing my career in environmental education and am working on getting my Wilderness First Aid and First Responder certification with my AmeriCorps education award. We’re not done yet though! The Twin Lakes Youth Wilderness Campout is July 26-28 for only $25. Please let us know if you have a student who would like to attend.

AmeriCorps Voice… Maris Wilson

These past few months have been filled with programs, both existing and new! My final Science Wednesday afterschool program was with Winchester Elementary School. We had so much fun learning about science, including a new lesson all about soils where we used some newly-purchased teaching materials to explore the basic components of our earth.

Fullerton Elementary School hosted their first Outdoor School this year, where I spent a day teaching 5th grade students how to navigate using a compass. We practiced taking a bearing and orienting ourselves in the right direction. Christine created a station where students could explore different species of trees and their rings, and the skulls of animals found in the Umpqua.

After helping with a few events at the library and talking with parents, I learned that Roseburg does not offer a lot of programs where families with preschool students can come and learn together. I decided to create a 4-week program targeting this age group where we could learn about the science of spring together. We learned about weather, animals, plants, and insects. One family member told me that their student was awake and ready to go to ‘school’ at 7am, even though our program started at 1pm! It is wonderful to hear that these students were so excited to spend some time learning about science. The program was so successful, and parent feedback so positive, that I will be offering another 4-week program for preschool students this summer at the library.

In the middle of May, Christine and I were able to teach at the Eastwood Nature Days program where 3rd grade students from almost every school in Roseburg were able to come and explore the science of nature. Christine taught them about water chemistry, specifically about cohesion and surface tension. I taught about soil science where students learned about the importance of soil as a resource and used a soil sieve to determine what makes up the soil at Eastwood. We had 4 full days of this program, and each day was just as exciting as the last.

At Winston Middle School, the 7th grade science students were able to participate in a 2-day stream study as part of their ecology unit. The first day, we covered the importance of soil and practiced taking the pH of different liquids. The second day we were down at the stream looking at the soil composition, measuring the pH at differen

t sites along the water, and searching for micro-organisms to determine the health of the river. Everyone had fun splashing in the river and learning more about their local environment.

Christine and I had a chance to do some outreach events these past few months. In April, we went to the Earth Day Celebration at the fairgrounds. We spoke with families about tree rings using our new education kit, and had a chance to describe our education programs. In May, we had a booth at the STEAM Extravaganza at UCC. We taught families all about water chemistry. One student stayed at the table for about 20 minutes, doing his best to float as many paper clips as possible without breaking the surface tension of the water. In the end, he was able to float 10 paperclips!

Coming up, we will be offering preschool courses in partnership with the Douglas County Museum. They will be held at the museum on Saturday mornings, beginning on June 8th and culminating in a stream exploration on June 29th. My preschool program will begin on June 11th at the library, and will continue on June 25th, July 2nd, and July 9th. Hope to see lots of community members there.

It is hard to believe my service term is ending in two short months. It has been such an honor working with Umpqua Watersheds and all of the passionate volunteers. I have learned so much about environmental education and activism in Roseburg, all while meeting community members and organizations dedicated to improving the lives of our residents. While I am not sure where my journey is heading, I know I will always be grateful to Umpqua Watersheds for this unparalleled experience. Thanks for an incredible year!


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