Capitol Land Trust, the Puget Sound Estuarium, and North Thurston Public Schools are teaming up to bring the classroom outdoors. The location is the Inspiring Kids Preserve, a 108-acre piece of land located on Henderson Inlet near Olympia, Washington.
The Inspiring Kids Preserve (the Preserve) is protected by Capitol Land Trust for its deciduous and coniferous forests, estuaries, shoreline, and wetlands. The Preserve’s proximity to North Thurston schools combined with ecosystem diversity makes it the perfect outdoor classroom for local students to study ecology.
It is early spring in the Pacific Northwest and the forests are bursting with life. As students walk off the bus, they are immediately immersed into a second growth forest fresh with the light green leaves of osoberry and salmonberry buds swollen with new growth. Pacific Wrens chorus through the trees and Kinglets flit from branch to branch.
Our first stop is gearing up with magnifying glasses so we can make close-up observations all day long.
Taking a walk through a second growth forest reveals many wonders, from nurse logs and western red cedars to stinging nettles and horsetail.
Who lives in forest and estuary habitats? What special skills do those animals have that allow them to live there? How are the pieces of an ecosystem connected? These are questions we set out to answer by rotating through four hands-on activities that highlight the diversity of life found at the Preserve.
Students demonstrate the connections between everything in an ecosystem by creating a food web. Everything is connected!
Living in Puget Sound gives us unique access to the estuary ecosystem, where freshwater and saltwater mix. Students compare and contrast the forest and an estuary ecosystem and get to check out life in an estuary.
Discoveries include centipedes, snails, dragonfly larvae, caterpillars, a rough-skinned newt, mussel shells, pickleweed, mushrooms, tadpoles, beetles, rolly polly bugs, a nesting Pacific wren, and more!
It’s exploration like this that reminds us of the incredible diversity of the Pacific Northwest and inspires wonder, no matter your age. You never know what can be uncovered after taking a closer look, until you do.
We want to thank the Puget Sound Estuarium for their assistance in developing this program and for sharing their knowledge about estuaries. We also want to extend a special thank you to the volunteers, chaperones, teachers, and other District staff who made these field trips possible. With your support, students experienced the wonders of the natural world in a safe, fun, and educational way. Don’t take it from us, here are some student responses when asked about their day.
From the students
“I found out that every animal has a unique set of gifts.”
“I liked when we got to search for animals and bugs in the water and then we got to write about them and take our observations home with us.”
“We got to look around and explore the world and feel like an animal. I loved it.”
“What I liked most was catching bugs.”
“I liked learning about new plants.”
“In class we learned that there is a lot of bugs. And we saw a lot of bugs. We also learned that there are a lot of kinds of trees. We saw lots of different trees.”
“I learned about ecosystems in class and learned even more about them at the field trip.”
“I learned that you don’t want to touch stinging nettle and woodpeckers live in snags to get bugs.”
“What I most liked about the field trip was that I had lots and lots of fun!”