Connecting with Students, Fostering Hands-on Learning

At the Foundation, we believe education should connect the learner. It should be interesting. It should engage the senses. When a student goes home after a field trip at our Rhododendron Preserve, we want them to be brimming with excitement about what they experienced and what they learned. And this excitement should be present whatever the age of the student from preschool to adult.

Our goal in our education programs is to live up to our mission to promote actions and foster understanding to inspire conservation from the Rhododendron Preserve to the Salish Sea region. Our vision is people connecting with and protecting healthy ecosystems. Our Preserve is where this all begins.

Two kids on a log pointing to something in the creek. Kids dressed in warm clothes with ferns behind them.

One of my great joys is introducing people to the Preserve and listening to their comments. Many young people comment on how good the air smells. When they do, it’s an opportunity to remind them that trees breathe in the carbon dioxide that people and animals exhale and exhale the oxygen that we breathe. What you’re breathing when you’re in the forest is oxygen that is straight from the source. 

“I wish we could do this for PE every day,” is another memorable comment. It was an opportunity to talk about the importance of exercise, how the changes in terrain work different muscle groups, and the way exercise strengthens your heart muscle. That young person left the field trip having learned about more than just the environmental systems that were the field trip subject.

When people were stung when they wandered a bit off the path and stepped on a ground wasp nest, it was an opportunity to discuss natural medicine treatments. They learned about the healing power of plantain, how to recognize plantain, and where to look for it growing. A similar piece of learning happened when a group was warned to be cautious of the stinging nettle growing along the trail. This warning started an impromptu discussion of natural remedies for all sorts of minor injuries.

Field trips to the Preserve are opportunities to learn. They are opportunities to experience, and opportunities to engage all of a person’s senses. There is so much to see on the Preserve. The air smells better, there are textures all around, and when you’re with someone that knows what is and isn’t safe to eat, there are tastes and flavors to experience.

– Katha Miller-Winder, Education Committee