Field trip! Most students love to hear those words at school. Field trips conjure up visions of learning adventures outside the normal classroom lessons and offer a welcome break from the day to day routine. Unfortunately, none of us are sure right now when our children will be back in the classroom, much less taking a field trip with classmates.
Grants boost creative adaptations to COVID-19
Virtual reality. Open air classroom space. Online underwater dives. Local environmental education groups throughout the Puget Sound are eager to reconnect with their students and have been developing strategies to adapt to COVID-19 while also trying to navigate new challenges in raising money when traditional fundraising events are on pause.
The Kitsap-based Keta Legacy Foundation, also known as Mountaineers Foundation, announced its latest round of grant funding for conservation-focused projects throughout the Puget Sound region. Many of the programs are aimed at outdoor education for youth and are developing innovative strategies to maintain projects during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Foundation’s community grants program, which shared its 50th anniversary with Earth Day in April, has funded hundreds of projects over the decades. It awards two rounds of grants every year. Level 1 grants of up to $5,000 are typically awarded in April, and Level 2 grants of up to $15,000 are awarded in November.
COVID-19 forced the Foundation to think differently about this year’s applicants. The committee asked applicants to provide additional information about how they would adapt their programming to ensure physical distancing and other reopening requirements. Renee Johnson, the Foundation’s Grant Committee Chair, said the opportunity to support innovative or outdoor-based education holds even greater significance during a time that many people crave outdoor experiences and are more limited in their ability to gather indoors or in large groups. She also said several organizations described how challenging it’s been to raise money without the ability to host traditional fundraising events.
“Our mission is to connect people to healthy ecosystems. We support outdoor environmental education projects that spark a love of nature, and this year we also needed to consider projects that could adapt to this uncertain new normal,” said Johnson. “Conservation education is often face-to-face and hands-on. And at this moment, people are especially eager for outdoor experiences and social connection. But we have to do it differently. Our applicants are all thinking creatively, from reconfiguring classrooms in an open air space to incorporating online learning and virtual reality. We’re extremely proud to partner with and support their work.”
The Foundation received 15 applications for Community Conservation Education Grants. The seven projects awarded funding are:
Friends of the Anacortes Community Forest Lands — $4,000
The Friends of the Anacortes Community Forest is seeking to hire a forest educator to help the organization expand its education program to include multiple field trips for every kindergarten, 3rd and 7th-grade student in the Anacortes School District. They also plan to develop new lesson plans and activities for the programs with the Anacortes Family Center, a nonprofit that serves women, children and families in need of emergency housing.
Friends of the San Juans — $5,000
The Friends of the San Juans are developing a science education program for high school students using virtual reality to connect students with the local marine food web. Students experience the virtual reality of underwater divers and field scientists to observe herring, sand lance, juvenile Chinook and more. The virtual nature of the program makes it possible to adjust the program whether students are in the classroom or learning from home.
Pacific Shellfish Institute — $5,000
The Pacific Shellfish Institute is developing a program for middle school students and community members to monitor the health of the Dungeness Crab population in South Puget Sound using a light trap. The Institute will report crab counts and water quality data weekly and design a web page that allows community scientists to participate in tracking progress, reviewing notes and videos from the field, and engaging with biologists online. Each week, community scientists can collect a new “Critter Card” that provides information about one of the organisms found in the light trap.
Puget Soundkeeper Alliance — $4,000
The Puget Soundkeeper Alliance is expanding its Lost Urban Creeks Project that works with youth as citizen scientists to monitor and improve water quality of urban creeks and waterways. The program has a special focus on marginalized youth and plans to develop an online story map to raise awareness about log and neglected urban waterways.
Port Gamble S’Klallam Foundation at Heronswood — $4,000
Grant funds will support community classes at Heronswood that promote conservation and preservation efforts in home neighborhoods, public spaces, old growth forests, nature preserves, and other natural spaces. Community education is one of the organization’s core programs and they plan to transform their classroom into a semi-open air room that can be heated in the fall.
RE Sources for Sustainable Communities — $5,000
RE Sources holds a three-day teacher training workshop in Whatcom County to promote environmental stewardship and climate science instruction. The program includes field learning and they are working with the Northwest Educational Service District to move their program to an online platform they had already piloted last year. The move to an online platform will allow RE Sources to provide their workshop to as many 200 teachers from seven school districts and the Lummi Nation School.
Washington Environmental Council — $4,000
WEC organizes numerous education and outreach events every year as part of Orca Month, which is usually held in April. WEC has shifted to organizing virtual webinars and events such as “Orca Story Time” and is exploring how to adapt other activities to become virtual such as local cleanups.
More information about the Foundation’s grant program, including past recipients, is available in our Grants section.
As communities throughout Washington state slowly begin to reopen, Kitsap County has been able to reopen some of its outdoor spaces. The 426-acre Rhododendron Preserve owned and managed by Keta Legacy Foundation (also known as Mountaineers Foundation) is among the places Kitsap residents can now visit for a breath of fresh air and mind-clearing scenery.
The Preserve, located off Seabeck Highway in Bremerton, is one of the region’s largest remaining lowland virgin forests and home to the Chico Creek watershed, with 68 miles of streams. Chum, steelhead, Coho and cutthroat trout cut their way through the lush habitat under the cover of soaring western red cedar, pine trees and Douglas fir.
The Preserve’s trail to Big Tree is a moderate 1.5 mile roundtrip walk for families and children to enjoy together. This time of year is an especially good time to enjoy the flowers of the Pacific rhododendron – our state flower, and the inspiration for the name of the Preserve. Visitors can also glimpse young salmon in quiet pools within Wildcat and Lost Creeks.
“Nature is good for our health. At a time when many people are feeling unsettled, we welcome people to visit this ecological treasure and reconnect with the outdoors. We take enormous pride in our stewardship of this property and making this a place of discovery and connection.”
-Jeff Wirtz, president of Keta Legacy Foundation
The Preserve’s trailhead for the 1.5 mile Big Tree Trail is near The Mountaineers Kitsap Cabin and Kitsap Forest Theater Complex. Admission is free. Visitors are reminded that it’s important to avoid crowds, stay six feet apart, and bring a cloth face covering in case you come across other visitors. Note that parts of the trail are steep and require steady footing. Please leave pets at home to avoid stressing native animals. For more information, see our visit page.
Protecting the Mountaineers Foundation name and legacy
A note from Mindy Roberts, past President and current Secretary of Keta Legacy Foundation aka Mountaineers Foundation since 1968
The Mountaineers Foundation was founded in 1968 by a small group of men and women who were dedicated to conserving the beautiful spaces of the Puget Sound region and helping connect people to nature. For over 50 years, our volunteer-led organization has been funded by generous donors who support our land acquisition and preservation work, stewardship of The Rhododendron Preserve, and environmental education programs for local youth.
Our long-time supporters are familiar that some of our work has been in partnership with the similarly-named alpine club known as The Mountaineers. And some of our supporters are aware of a legal conflict that has recently arisen between our similarly-named organizations. Though we have always been independent of one another, we’ve found common cause over the years on projects related to the Foundation’s Preserve, conservation-based publishing through Braided River, and more, which makes this conflict both confusing and unsettling for some people. As someone who has served leadership roles in both organizations, I hear the questions and understand the confusion.
The Foundation has always operated as an independent 501 (c)(3) and has raised funds as the Mountaineers Foundation since 1968. The Mountaineers only recently changed its tax exempt status in 2011, so it could start accepting charitable donations. Unfortunately, as The Mountaineers have developed a program to solicit charitable donations, they have started doing so with misleading statements and misuse of the Mountaineers Foundation’s registered mark.
We take very seriously the conservation-focused legacy we’ve built as the Mountaineers Foundation and the numerous bequests that make our ongoing work possible. In 2018, as we celebrated our 50-year milestone as a 501 (c)(3) organization, we updated our name to underscore our core values of conservation and connection. Keta is the Latin name for chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta), which need healthy ecosystems from the mountains, through forests and streams, and throughout the marine environment. These natural systems also support communities of people with a vested interest in the health and wellbeing of all the residents of our region – people and wildlife. That’s why this simple word – keta – captures what we have done as an independent organization since 1968.
We are still the Mountaineers Foundation and still known as the Mountaineers Foundation, and that continues to be our legal name. We feel strongly that protecting our right to that name – and our ability to honor the intent of those who choose to give to our organization – is the right thing to do.
Our donors mean the world to us and we welcome the opportunity to answer questions. We are honored and privileged to have your support. We want you, our donors, to know that maintaining the integrity and the legacy of the Foundation is important, and we are working diligently to resolve the conflict as effectively and efficiently as possible.
Secretary and former President
Keta Legacy Foundation, also known as Mountaineers Foundation
Preserve. Inspire. Educate. That’s what we’ve been doing at the Foundation for more than 50 years!
Today, our GiveBIG donors helped us:
Preserve: Your contributions help us steward the beautiful 426-acre Rhododendron Preserve on the Kitsap Peninsula. We also acquire and preserve land throughout the Salish Sea region.
Inspire: Your contributions support our competitive grant program which has funded hundreds of projects with other conservation and environmental education-focused non-profits.
Educate: And your contributions support our work with local schools and community members to offer educational opportunities that inspire a love of the outdoors.
Your generosity will continue connecting people to healthy ecosystems for 50 more.
From all of us at the Foundation – Thank You!