Vashon Nature Center_Scientists in Schools

Scientists in Schools

If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.” ― Rachel Carson

Vashon Nature Center works with Vashon Island School District and other island schools and programs to bring expert scientists into the classroom, and to create hands-on environmental learning and research opportunities for students of all ages. We believe in the power of engaging youth in real projects that have real consequences and benefits for their local community. We work closely with teachers to link projects to existing curricula and Next Generation Science Standards.

Nature Presentations (all ages)

VNC Scientist Bianca Perla teaches about Stream invertebrates and what they can tell us about the health of local watersheds.

VNC Scientist Bianca Perla shares stories of stream invertebrates and what they can tell us about the health of local watersheds.

Our trained naturalists and scientists offer short in-class or outdoor programs designed to foster student awareness and understanding of environmental science topics by pinning these topics to real-life local examples on Vashon and Maury Islands. Students become engaged and excited about science through these programs because they see how science is tied to their own backyards and personal lives.

Examples include: Living with Coyotes–an exploration of local coyote (predator) ecology and management, Salmon See-son–the life cycle of salmon and a discussion of how salmon populations are faring in our local streams and where to see them, Biodiversity on the Rock–an entertaining look at the concept of biological diversity and engaging stories about fun biodiversity discoveries made in our annual Island BioBlitz events.

We work with teachers to highlight topics of their choice and to teach to different age levels. These presentations can also be adapted for community groups.

Rates: $100/hr of class time. Programs can be as short as 30 minutes ($50) or as long as 90 minutes ($150).

Contact us to create and schedule your in-class presentation.

Invertebrates in School (grades 6-8)

Middle school students identify stream bugs alongside Vashon Nature Center scientists as part of an ongoing project to assess the health of Shinglemill Creek. Photo credit: Bianca Perla

Sixth-grade science classes participate in monitoring the health of Shinglemill Creek, a major watershed on Vashon Island. Vashon Nature Center scientists collect aquatic invertebrate samples in the field and bring them into the classroom, where students spend three days shoulder-to-shoulder with scientists learning about watershed health, biological indicators, and sorting and identifying invertebrates. In past years, students discovered possible indications of storm-water runoff issues from a tributary of Shinglemill Creek that drains Vashon town. The students’ presentation for the Vashon Maury Island Groundwater Protection Committee spurred several subsequent independent research projects to look into possible solutions for runoff issues. In addition, students are monitoring study sites for yearly changes.

Hands-on Field Research (grades 9-12)

Vashon high school students help VNC scientists measure vegetation changes in fenced plots where deer are excluded.

Vashon Nature Center scientists work with teams of Vashon High School students to tackle applied research and environmental management questions relevant to local land management agencies (including King County Parks, King County Department of Natural Resources, Vashon Maury Island Groundwater Protection Committee, and Vashon Maury Island Land Trust). Examples of projects include amphibian surveys of local ponds, effects of deer exclusion from forested plots, cutthroat trout and salmon surveys, sea star wasting syndrome surveys, notable tree identification and measurement, and research on storm-water runoff in the town of Vashon.

We mentor students throughout the entire scientific process including analyzing data and communicating results. Students present their research findings to the community in an annual symposium event called ED Talks: Nature and Environment on the Rock. During this symposium students present alongside professional scientists and resource managers. To see posters and presentations from ED Talks visit our Research page and for reflections on the program experiences visit our Blog.

Many thanks to these essential VNC supporters: Vashon Partners in Education, Vashon Island School District, Vashon Maury Island Land Trust,  Vashon Maury Island Groundwater Protection Committee, Rose Foundation, and Sustainable Vashon.

(Featured photo by Allison Kennedy)