Eatonville, Wash. – Tacoma teachers Deanne Trummert and Carie Olsen are tromping along a muddy trail in the University of Washington’s Pack Forest. In between them are 27 8- and 9-year olds, all third grade students at Charles Wright. The teachers move between groups as their students eagerly collect soil samples and note the various plant species.
Over the course of the academic year, the two women will lead their students on 11 outdoor adventures, including this trip to Pack Forest. These excursions into the great outdoors are all part of a yearlong integrated social studies and homeroom science curriculum known as the Nisqually Watershed Project. They’ve taught it jointly since 2001.
“The world we live in is not compartmentalized into academic subjects such as science, language, or history,” said Olsen. “In the real world, content areas overlap and shape our understanding of the world. Our goal is to use the project to encourage critical thinking about our relationship with our surroundings.” Trummert echoes those sentiments and then ads, “It’s also a great example of the school’s culture, which places a high priority on both outdoor education and science.”
Destinations and Subjects Covered
- Mt. Rainier National Park – Geology of mountains and volcanoes, glaciers, and the history and management of national parks
- UW Pack Forest – Forest ecology and management
- Tree Planting in Ohop Valley – Collaborating with Nisqually Tribe in salmon habitat restoration
- Kobayashi Park – Spawning salmon
- Alder Dam – Hydroelectricity generation and its effects on river communities
- Steilacoom Tribal Museum – Historical and modern context for local Native American tribes
- Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge – How birds evolved to adapt to a variety of watershed habitats
- Mt. Rainier National Park – Snowshoeing to observe winter adaptations of plants and animals in the harsh environment at the top of the watershed
- Job Carr Cabin Museum – Local pioneers and the founding of Tacoma
- Ohop Pioneer Farm – Overnight pioneer living experience
- Nisqually Reach Nature Center – Open saltwater and beach habitats—the very end of the watershed