PEI Consultant Lisa Eschenbach is our Coastal Liason – working with teachers, schools and communities on Washington’s Pacific Coast. She found some great videos about Oceans and Marine Environments – take a look! Our work in this beautiful part of Washington is supported in part by the NOAA B-WET Program.

Want a quick introduction to marine or watershed topics? These short videos provide visual and personal connections to ocean and environmental literacy. If you want news and science articles on these same topics, check out our collection of resources: http://tinyurl.com/oceanarticles

Northwest Public Television on Ocean Acidification

Ocean Acidification

As the ocean absorbs extra carbon dioxide that is caused by global climate change, the resulting change in ocean chemistry has been leading to a more acidic ocean. That increased acidification directly affects shellfish production in the Puget Sound. This 6-minute video is a clear and personable approach to this complicated issue. http://tinyurl.com/pbsacidify 

Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary

Underwater Dives

Take your students on an underwater dive with Sanctuary videos. In the warmth and comfort of your own home or school, you can watch halibut, octopus or sea stars in Living Sanctuary. Also check out Ocean Literacy (education) and Research. http://olympiccoast.noaa.gov/library/videogallery.html

Natural Resources Defense Council: The Global Challenge of Ocean Acidification

Global Ocean Acidification

This is a 21-minute video on ocean acidification by the Natural Resources Defense Council. They also have a 3 and 5 minute version. Check out:

  • Minute: 6:10-8:30   The chemical processes of ocean acidification.
  • Minute: 8:30-11  Food web in the ocean
  • Minute: 11    The impact on fishing


Sea Level Change Impacts La Push by EarthFix

Sea Level Change La Push
What do changing ocean levels mean for coastal and tribal communities?

Olympic National Park Science

Working between the tides

Park scientists describe intertidal monitoring on the outer Washington Coast. See some of their techniques and learn why they monitor. http://www.nwparkscience.org/node/989

For more park science videos check here:  http://www.nwparkscience.org/video

Octopus Mom

octopus mom

This film by underwater videographer Laurynn Evans shows a mother octopus giving birth to 50,000 itsy bitsy teeny weenie octopus babies. http://bit.ly/HDgBOp


Diver Laura James talks about what lives below the surface of the Puget Sound and what stormwater deposits into the Sound from Oregon Public Broadcast. It also describes how raingardens affect stormwater run-off.  8 minutes.


Pat Otto brought two outstanding Washington state educators to Washington DC last month as part of the Project Learning Tree fly-in to talk about the importance of getting kids outdoors. All three graciously shared their experiences with us – sounds like a great trip! 

2012 PLT Fly-in

Jane Ulrich, Pat Otto and Roberta McFarland in front of the Capitol Building during their trip to Washington DC in July.

Pat Otto
Washington State Project Learning Tree Coordinator, PEI Program Provider

As the Project Learning Tree (PLT) Coordinator for Washington State, I recently (July 18, 2012) participated in the second annual National PLT fly-in in Washington DC.  Joining me were Jane Ulrich, 4th grade teacher at Sunny Hills Elementary in the Issaquah School District, and Roberta McFarland, director of Camp Waskowitz in the Highline School District. The purpose of our visit to the Nation’s capital was to inform our congressional delegation about the importance of environmental and sustainability education and share our compelling stories about the impact environmental education has on students’ lives. Joined by 2 PLT staffers, Emily Marx and Bret Richardson, we met with 7 Washington staffers for both our Senators and 4 Members of Congress (MOC) throughout the day. Everyone we talked with was interested, supportive, and asked great questions. In fact these staffers were such amazing people that I am compelled to share their names.

Senator Murray – Anna Sperling

Senator Cantwell – James Mueller and Janet George

Congressman Dave Reichert – Natalie Kamphaus

Congressman Adam Smith – Paul Hoover

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers – Melanie A. Steele

Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler – Jessica Wixson

Using PLT lessons as an example, I started our conversations with an overview of how environmental and sustainability education provides opportunities for students to not only meet state standards, but exceed those standards along with how we need national support to make sure every student has environmental education as part of their educations. We shared the great things that are already happening in our state including Environment and Sustainability Standards and Literacy Plan. Further, we asked Senators and Representatives to visit schools in their districts this coming year to experience firsthand what Environmental and Sustainability Education looks like.

Next Jane and Roberta shared their stories of how environment and sustainability education has changed student’s lives and how they teach. Jane and Roberta also shared their stories with the Department of Agriculture at an afternoon meeting. Here are their stories:

2012 PLT Fly-in meetings

Jane Ulirch, Roberta McFarland and Pat Otto meet with Paul Hoover, Legislative Assistant to Congressman Adam Smith.

Jane Ulrich
4th grade teacher, Sunny Hills Elementary School, Issaquah School District

In the 1990’s I had the privilege of being trained in PLT through the Issaquah School District.  It was during that time that PLT encouraged me, inspired me, and supported me to develop two outdoor classrooms on my school campus.

With their support, and the support of my principal, parents, and community members (including the Boy Scouts), a “forest classroom” and a native garden classroom came to fruition on the Sunny Hills Elementary School campus. Teachers could now take their students outdoors for hands-on learning.

Through the years these sites have continued to be used by teachers and students, but the level of usage has declined, I believe, due to cutbacks in teacher training. With the high turnover of staff at my school, many of the current teachers have not been trained in environmental education.

Therefore, it was with great enthusiasm, and concern for the decline in funding for teacher training, that I gratefully accepted the opportunity to attend the first and second national PLT fly-In in Washington, DC.

I shared my concerns, through photographs, to interested staffers in the offices of Senator Patty Murray, Senator Maria Cantwell, and Representative Dave Reichert.  I asked them to visit my school. I hope seeing firsthand how school campuses can provide opportunities for authentic outdoor experiences will lead to efforts in Congress to provide the needed funding for natural resource education for all teachers, K-12, in our beautiful state.

One of my parents shared her thoughts about her daughter’s experiences in our outdoor classrooms at the end of this school year—“Sophie has learned a new respect and appreciation for nature. She stops to point out the sunsets and flowers along the way, after grabbing a camera to record them. What a blessing to be inspired by the beautiful world we live in.”

Thank you, PLT, for giving me the opportunity to share with decision-makers in Washington, DC how children feel about the natural world when they are given the chance, in school, to interact with it. Life-changing.


2012 PLT Fly-in Rayburn Building

Project Learning Tree staff Bret Richardson with Jane Ulrich, Roberta McFarland and Pat Otto in front of the Rayburn House Office Building.

Roberta McFarland
Principal, Waskowitz Outdoor School, Highline School District

Waskowitz Outdoor School has had the privilege of participating in the PLT Green Schools! program since 2009. Through the materials and tools we received as part of the Green Schools program, we have been able to conduct energy audits and waste audits with our high school student Green Team. In addition to the authentic learning experiences these investigations provided, Green Team members were given numerous leadership opportunities. The Waskowitz Green Team was invited to the launch of The Sustainability and Environmental Education Literacy Plan for Washington State. The Waskowitz Green Team was the highlighted student speakers at this event. The pride they shared in being part of a school that honors student voice and opportunity to make a difference for our planet was awe inspiring. Waskowitz Environmental Leadership School students are often first in their family to consider college, and frequently first in their family to graduate high school. These students felt like celebrities for environmental education.

As part of the PLT Green Schools program Waskowitz was asked to present at the National Science Teachers Convention in Seattle. I brought all three years of Green Team members. Some had graduated, yet still wanted to share their story. The PowerPoint they created was a collaborative effort, aiding in the development of leadership and public speaking skills. All students spoke about the difference being involved in a meaningful program afforded them with the ability to see beyond today to a brighter future.

I was truly privileged to share my stories of empowerment and pride for the students involved in PLT Green Schools with our MOC and The Department of Agriculture. PLT Green Schools is a program that truly helps many students find a path to success and an inner voice that tells them, they may be one, but they can be the difference.


Last week PEI’s consultant Erica Baker went to Napa, California for Buck Institute for Education’s (BIE) PBL World. PEI has been working with the National Environmental Education Foundation and BIE to pilot an online course, including environmental Project-Based Learning. PEI’s Project-Based Learning Model (find a copy here), part of the North American Conservation Education Toolkit, and the BIE 8 Essential Elements are both highlighted in the Schoolyard Habitat Project of the online course. Read Erica’s reflection on her PBL World experience to learn more!

There were representatives from 9 countries and 27 states at the PBL World event.

Last week, I spent four days at the first annual PBL World (Project Based Learning World) Conference in Napa, California.  Wow!  It was such a powerful experience to have so many (450!) dedicated and energetic educators in one place.  I met people from across the country and around the world.  These educators had varying levels of experience with Project Based Learning (PBL) and it was so motivational to hear their stories about how they are using PBL with their students.

The morning keynote speakers will informative and inspiring.  I particularly enjoyed hearing about Sam Seidel’s experiences with young people from all walks of life.  His suggestion to add Keep it Real to the Buck Institute for Education’s 8 Essential Elements of Project Based Learning really reinforces the Pacific Education Institute’s mission to train and empower teachers to involve students in real-world environmental projects here in Washington State.

I spent the bulk of the week in the Middle School PBL session with my facilitator, Andrew Miller (Ed. note: Find Andrew on twitter, @betamiller, he’s a great PBL resource!).  He did a fantastic job not only informing the teachers about the process and tools they can use with students, but also modeling how to effectively utilize technology, engage participants and encourage collaboration while ensuring the authentic learning that takes place during PBL.  By the end of the three day session, educators left equipped to involve their students in a meaningful PBL project.

Teachers at the conference were very engaged with learning how to design a PBL experience.

On Friday, the Buck Institute for Education (BIE) announced the launch of PBLU – Project Based Learning University!  In partnership with the National Environmental Education Foundation and BIE, the Pacific Education Institute created the Schoolyard Habitat Project for PBLU teachers who are interested in connecting their students to a real-world environmental project.

K-12 teachers can sign up at PBLU.org by choosing a project (such as the Schoolyard Habitat Project!) and then “sign up and sign in” to take five related classes – all for free!  The first round of classes starts on July 30th, with a second round scheduled for October of 2012.  Each 2-week class provides insight into project planning and implementation and is designed for a time commitment of 5 to 6 hours.  Once all five classes have been completed, teachers then begin to implement the Capstone Project – one of which is the Schoolyard Habitat Project!  Currently, the elementary version of the Schoolyard Habitat Project is available and the secondary version will be unveiled by October.  (Secondary teachers can also begin taking classes in July.  Sign up for the elementary project and then you can download the secondary project in October.)

Teacher participants will receive valuable materials and support as they involve their students in a project to enhance wildlife habitat on their school campus through weed removal, bird box installation or even the creation of a garden.

Please let us know if you sign up.  We’d love to hear about your efforts and the results of your projects!

PEI Consultant Lisa Eschenbach is an expert at finding resources for educators about our local environments! In this post she outlines some of the best videos about our Puget Sound and beyond, for educators and students. Take a look: 

How can you take your students on an overflight of the Puget Sound? Through short videos you and your students can see more of the Puget Sound and learn from marine & watershed scientists and other students. Here is my list of my top ten videos on the Puget Sound and about the environment.

1)   Watershed Address by Friends of the Cedar River Watershed
Students developed and act in this 9-minute video describing the Cedar River Watershed, which drains through Seattle, Bellevue and Tukwila. This video also describes where the drinking water comes from in the Cedar River Watershed. This video is relevant to residents of other watersheds. What is your watershed address? How could you tell the story of your watershed? http://www.cedarriver.org/programs/watershed-report

Students teach about the Cedar River Watershed in the "Watershed Address". (captured image from the video)

2)  Lost and (Puget) Sound by Inye Wokoma-Ijo Media Group
This video was created through a grant from the Washington State Department of Ecology to the City of Seattle with partners Seattle Public Schools, Everett Public Schools and the city of Tacoma. This 27-minute video follows three students as they discover where water goes through the storm drain systems, and how they can help keep the Puget Sound clean and healthy. This video also has a teaching guide and related lesson plans.  http://www.ci.seattle.wa.us/util/Services/Drainage_&_Sewer/Keep_Water_Safe_&_Clean/RestoreOurWaters/index.htm

3) Ecology in Focus
This series of 2-3 minute videos describe the work of a variety of professionals working to protect the Puget Sound.

4)   Facing the Future: Making a Sound Impact Student Video Contest Winners
Check out the three short student videos winners. Videos address protecting and preserving the Puget Sound. http://www.facingthefuture.org/PugetSoundContest/tabid/529/Default.aspx

5)  Edudemic’s: 25 TED Talks Perfect for Classrooms
Great selected TED talks. Start with David Gallo’s talk on the wonders of the ocean or Louie Schwatzberg’s Hidden Beauty of Pollinators. Five to seven minutes well spent.

6)  Edutopia Top 5-minute films on School Gardens
I highly recommend the first video by the University of Maryland on school gardens.

How to Start a School Garden by the University of Maryland with Chrissa Carlson. (captured image from the video)

7)  Whale Fall (after life of a whale)
This creative paper-art video by Sharon Shattuck and Flora Lichtman for Sweet Fern Productions depicts what happens when a whale dies in the ocean. This 4.5 minute video describes the biodiversity of the deep ocean by describing the decomposition of a whale.

8)  How to talk about Stormwater
Sightline developed this video for professionals to talk simply about stormwater. It is a great introduction to the topic, although it is targeted towards professionals. This could be a good introduction to talk about professional voice.

9)  How to Plant it Right.
This 17-minute video describes how to plan and execute riparian restorations. It is narrated by a restoration ecologist. The last seven minutes describe plant cuttings. Stick with the first 10 minutes if you just want to talk about restoration basics. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eos3JiOMXEg

Joslyn Trivett, a restoration ecologist shows how to plan a Douglas fir seedling in the Plant It Right video. (captured image from the video)

10)  Department of Ecology: How to monitor for construction stormwater permits
This video is designed for people who need to collect water quality data in order to apply for construction permits. So, not all of the video may be relevant. The first five minutes describe turbidity and its effect of water quality, stormwater issues and pH testing. The rest of the 20-minute video moves pretty slow for students.

There has been a lot of work here at PEI in the last couple of months finishing up our contribution to the Association of Fish and Wildlife’s (AFWA) North American Conservation Education Strategy Toolkit. The toolkit is a collection of best practices tools for conservation educators around the country to engage K-12 students in their local environment, through science, social studies and recreation. PEI has been a major contributor to the toolkit, including our Field Investigation Model.

The launch of the products is coming up soon, and we will have posts highlighting each of the products in the next few months. In the meantime, check out this video that describes the work of AFWA and the Conservation Education Toolkit.

PEI consultant Lisa Eschenbach, along with PEI consultant  Pat Otto and Seattle Aquarium’s Karen Matsumoto, taught a workshop in August with Federal Way School District. Below is Lisa’s description of the two-day workshop:  

August is my favorite month of the year. We have beautiful weather in the northwest, of course, but I also love the excitement that comes just before the new school-year. This August, PEI started their new partnership with the Federal Way School District. We commenced with a workshop with teachers from Woodmont Elementary and Sahalie Middle Schools. I think we lucked out with a great group of wise and wild teachers that fit right in to our student-centric approach.

Armed with clipboards, thermometers, transects and field guides, these teachers learned how to design and then lead field investigations. We started with field investigations of their own schoolyard and then went down to the local Puget Sound beach.

To prepare their students for quality field investigations, teachers built their own watershed, collected data on the candy practice transect and developed their own field science questions.

Thanks to the expertise of Karen Matsumoto at the Seattle Aquarium and Rus Higley at the Marine Science and Technology Center, teachers learned first-hand about Puget Sound wildlife, such as barnacles, mussels and the giant Pacific octopus. At the MaST Center in Des Moines, some teachers even got to meet their friendly octopus.

Federal Way teachers join a network of hundreds of teachers and professors around Washington State who are using the Pacific Education Institute’s field investigations and project based learning models to increase their students’ learning.

After completing the workshop, teachers came up with this list of actions they and their students can take to help the Puget Sound. This group of teachers will positively influence our Puget Sound, working with each group of incoming students for years to come. How many of these actions will you take over the next school year? How many do you already do with your students?

  • Learn beach etiquette
  • Practice water conservation
  • Do observations and record data of the species and enter into mapping system
  • Complete species survey for environmental awareness
  • Do surveys for NOAA
  • Leave the beaches the way we find them
  • Be kind to beaches and sea life
  • Pick up trash
  • Become familiar with and build appreciation for the local environment
  • Recycle!  Pick up after your dog!
  • Learn beach behaviors and ways to lower pollution in their environment
  • Know that what we put down storm sewers (fertilizer etc.) has a major impact down stream
  • Pick up garbage before we leave
  • Take time to learn about ecosystems/habitats so they can become responsible citizens
  • Be aware of watershed implications for pollution

Jane Ulrich, the teacher who went to Washington DC with Pat Otto and PLT this summer, teaches 4th grade at Sunny Hills Elementary in Issaquah, Washington. As we are fast approaching the new school year, it seems like the right time to talk about one of the projects that Jane uses in her classroom. Jane works with students every year on a science, photography and poetry unit, which she describes below:

I teach haiku poetry to inspire students to connect with their emotions when writing about something they have photographed in nature.  I use photography with my students across the core curriculum, but especially in the area of science.  To improve observational skills, using the camera has been a very successful avenue.  To integrate haiku with photography during outdoor science investigations, in particular, I see my students develop an interest to care for and protect those outdoor classrooms in which they work.  As one of my former students said at his fifth grade graduation this year, “The best place to be at school is in the garden.

The photo and haiku below were framed and presented to the senators and representatives that Jane and Pat visited while in Washington DC.

by Nicholas Jennings

Standing all alone,

Watching skiers pass along

Blending with the snow.

Nicholas Jennings, 4th Grade
Mrs. Ulrich’s Class


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