Dissecting squid and identifying trees
March 26, 2008
By Laura Geggel
Every year, fifth-grade students across the school district zip up their bags and travel to the Olympic Peninsula for three days of camping and learning about nature. For some, it is their first time away from home without their family and the first time hiking for the fabled Sasquatch.
Atsumi Mizkami said his daughter was so excited she couldn’t sleep the night before. She and 80 other fifth graders from Cascade View Elementary traveled to Camp Seymour in Gig Harbor the second week of March.
“The camp is centered around a naturalistic, ecological way to live with nature,” said Michelle Virta, who chaperoned her daughter Zoe’s classmates at the YMCA campgrounds.
Camp Seymour is located on a cove in Puget Sound and educates students about nature, including trees, squids and marine life.
“They don’t realize how much they’re learning because they’re having so much fun learning,” said fifth-grade teacher Linda Anderson.
The cost came to $142 per child, prompting parents to organize a wreath fundraiser in the fall. Each child’s family could subtract the money raised from the wreaths when paying for the camp.
Naturalists at the camp taught children how to reduce waste in their everyday lives. One tactic targeted food scraps. At the end of each meal, campers would weigh the amount of their leftover food and then focus on how to waste less. Their lowest waste amount weighed only a quarter of a pound.
“I just ate everything that was on my plate,” said student Annie Shaw.
“The goal of the (challenge) is to get kids to think about how much energy goes into producing the food that we eat,” said Rebecca Gjertson, director of outdoor environmental education at Camp Seymour. “Whenever we throw (food) away, all of that energy has just been wasted.”
Another student, Daniel King, said his favorite part of Camp Seymour was dissecting the squid.
“We found the pen, cut open the ink sack and got to write on it,” King said. “It was all slimy and stuff. I pulled out the beak, and the brain and the esophagus were attached.”
Students also attended Tree-ific workshops and learned how to identify different species, like the red pine cedar. Naturalists explained the importance of trees and described how Native Americans use different parts of the tree for tools and materials.
Other activities included hiking, archery, boating and arts and crafts, as well as visits to the marine’s touch tanks.
“We saw reptiles and got to hold snakes and geckos,” said Shaw.
As much as the children learned, their counselors said the best part was seeing the crowd experience cooperation. Mount Si High School student Aaron Fisher, a counselor on the retreat, said the students were open to new people and new experiences.
“My favorite part was seeing the kids get along,” Fisher said. “We barely knew them and now we’re coming back and giving them high-fives and hugs. And we were only there for three days.”
Every fifth grade class in the school district goes on a similar retreat. Both North Bend Elementary and Snoqualmie Elementary send their fifth graders to outdoor education camps in May. Opstad Elementary School’s camp is held in October.
“We do a lot of group activities, as far as getting to know each other,” said John Jester, Opstad Elementary’s principal. “It really makes the fifth graders get to know each other better and helps them work together better for the rest of the year.”
Dyame Lemming, a fifth-grade teacher at Cascade View Elementary, thought his students learned a valuable message during their three-day hiatus from an indoor classroom.
“My favorite aspect of the camp was the awareness of the positive and negative impact the students have on the earth,” Lemming said.
Reporter Laura Geggel can be reached at 392-6434 x221 or email@example.com.