Dungeness River Audubon Center is a leader in outdoor classroom learning centered in nature.
Our education focus is on elementary and middle school children from second through eighth grades. Thanks to a series of environmental education grants, DRAC staff has developed curriculum for elementary and middle schools that focus on the wildlife of the Dungeness watershed and how humans affect local watersheds over time. Spending time outdoors facilitates naturalistic thinking and allows children to use their skills in a natural setting, developing the ability to recognize patterns and relationships in nature.
During these trips, students use the scientific method and widely used field techniques to answer the question, “Is the Dungeness River in Railroad Bridge Park healthy for salmon?” Each class participates in a 1-hour classroom visit and a 2-hour field trip to the Dungeness River at Railroad Bridge Park, where they conduct four experiments to collect data that indicate the river’s health:
1) Making observations and documenting the River with photographs,
2) Measuring temperature and dissolved oxygen,
3) Conducting a cobble survey,
4) Collecting, identifying, and counting aquatic macroinvertebrates.
Students use the data they collect in the field to make a conclusion about the health of the Dungeness River at Railroad Bridge Park.
During late May and early June, all 6th graders from Sequim Middle School participate in field trips to Railroad Bridge Park, where they participate in seven different activities exploring park stewardship and management of the river, such as understanding the flora and fauna of Railroad Bridge Park, discovering river systems, discovering habitat succession, and taking part in noxious weed removal in the river’s flood plain. Sequim High School AP Biology students assist with teaching and mentoring 6th grade students.
In the fall, Sequim Middle School 7th grade students visit the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe campus where River Center and tribal staff guide students through the historical use of natural resources, beginning 14,000 years ago when humans first settled here. Students discover human uses of the Olympic Peninsula’s natural resources by participating in an archaeological dig and deciding how to use resources during a game of survival. Students are also encouraged to uncover native art during a visit to the tribe’s carving shed. Unlike other programs offered by the River Center, this program focuses strongly on Language Arts and Social Studies.
During early May, Sequim Middle School 8th grade science students investigate the Dungeness watershed through four experiences, all related to increasing public awareness about bacterial contamination of Dungeness Bay. Students map watersheds and discover the importance of preserving bird stopover habitat, become experts on shellfish health, gather data on riparian forest health, and learn about the importance and influence of septic tanks in our area. For a conclusion the students create a river and discuss the influence of development on their watershed.
Independent research and teaching 6th Grade (see above). Through donated endowments, Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society and the River Center Foundation provide internship programs to complete independent projects in environmental studies. High school students also have the option to complete Natural Resource credit through the Lincoln Skills Center in Port Angeles through internships or independent projects.
10 Education Goals for the Dungeness River Audubon Center
- Continued broad focus on both children and adult education, using the Dungeness watershed, its wild inhabitants, natural history, and the wise use of natural resources as central themes.
- Have established school visitation programs by Audubon Center staff and volunteers to K – 12 classrooms, covering specific lessons in ecology, birds, other vertebrates, watersheds, human uses of natural resources, stewardship, and conservation, focusing on hands-on activities and the Washington State EALRS.
- Provide specific curriculum for 4th through 8th grades targeting the Dungeness watershed, how humans use and affect this watershed, and the fish, wildlife, and native plants of riverine habitats. This curriculum will include both in-class lessons and field trips to various locations in the watershed.
- Continued field trips for all grades to the Audubon Center and Railroad Bridge Park, focusing on hands-on data collection about organisms in the river and riverside forests.
- Have three week-long day camps for grades 3 – 5 focusing on fun science projects, arts and crafts, river research, and other hands-on activities.
- A well-developed intern program for high school and college students, providing equipment and mentoring for individual research projects related to the watershed and wildlife.
- Have regular programs at the Audubon Center covering a wide variety of natural history, conservation, science, and natural resource topics, aimed particularly at adults, but also suitable for older children. We particularly wish to provide a location where professional resource managers and researchers can translate their knowledge and information to the public, in language all can understand.
- Have a vibrant corps of adult and youth docents who are active in Audubon Center education programs as teachers, learners, and supporters. Provide support for docents and other educators to create lessons about the river and its wild inhabitants.
- Have informative exhibits, including hands-on activities and computer-aided lessons, in the Audubon Center building for drop-in visitors to learn about the Dungeness watershed and other topics.
- Provide a self-guided nature trail available in Railroad Bridge Park, with published trail guide containing informative details about the river, habitats, and wildlife of the area.