Fall 2013 – Kids and Streams and Beaches

2013-broadview-learning-logIn September 2013, 250 third to fifth grade students (from Broadview Elementary in Oak Harbor) came south to the Maxwelton Valley –  to explore and learn about stream ecology at the  Outdoor Classroom, and to do the same for the intertidal zone on nearby Maxwelton Beach.

Many of the students had never been to a  beach before. We asked them – what do you see, hear, smell, or feel that lets you know this is a beach? Some found it beautiful but stinky, others relished all aspects, all were eager to explore.

At the Beach, the students did two experiments, weaving the scientific method into their explorations. In the first they measured tidal movement during their visit. In the second, they compared how things float in  fresh versus salt water. 2013-broadview-microscopes(They floated a clamshell in fresh water, and another in salt water – then added pennies to each, one at a time – which clamshell do you think floated longer before sinking?) They also learned about plastic litter and its long-lived damage to the beach environment.

Students were introduced to marine plankton (in discussion and through a plankton song) and viewed living samples through microscopes. Of course, they also had some time to run around on the beach and just explore it.


This is not the first trip south for Broadview Elementary. For many years, the principal, Joyce Swanson, has been bringing students on a fall excursion to the Maxwelton Outdoor Classroom. Last year, a side-trip to the South Whidbey Bayview Transfer Station was added. As one student said: “Who would have thought trash could be so cool?” This year, the beach component was added – another student quote – “You really believe it when you can pick up the seaweed and turn over the rocks yourself.”


It takes -lots- of work behind the scenes to enable these valuable educational opportunities.  Active EcoNet Partners on this project:

  • Service, Education & Adventure (SEA) – beach instruction
  • Whidbey Watershed Stewards – Outdoor Classroom, stream instruction
  • WSU Extension Beach Watchers – intertidal expertise, beach instruction
  • WSU Extension Waste Wise – ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ expertise and instruction

Some takeaway comments:

Joyce Swanson, Broadview Elementary Principal, Oak Harbor

  • At Broad View, we value hands-on science activities in the field for our students so they can experience the environment as they learn. Students tell me that having a personal experience while learning makes it real. “You really believe it when you can pick up the seaweed and turn over the rocks yourself.” Many of our elementary students have limited opportunities to spend time in the outdoors at our parks and beaches, so as a school, we look for ways to get them out there to learn real science and see how it applies to their lives. The activities provided by the Beach Watchers, Service, Education & Adventure (SEA) and Whidbey Watershed Stewards were engaging for our students and helped them learn more about the Salish Sea, which is so important to us as Whidbey Islanders.

Susie Richards, ECONet Coordinator and SEA Co-Director

  • This pilot has provided EcoNet partners an opportunity to truly model the key elements of the ECO Net mission education, collaboration and outreach. We look forward to expanding these collaborative efforts as we implement our theme this year of Whidbey Waters are in Our Hands.