Kitsap is in a somewhat unique situation as we have The Mountaineers Foundation Rhododendron Preserve in our backyard. Because of our close connection the Conservation and Education Committee focuses largely on education programs; with a practically tailor made outdoor classroom/laboratory sitting right there begging to be used we'd be foolish not to make this our priority. We're very fortunate to have such an amazing resource literally in the heart of Kitsap County making it convenient for local schools.
The first program we created is one called Salmon Safaris. Essentially what this program does is to bring groups (typically classrooms) out to see salmon spawning in some natural streams that have not been heavily impacted by humanity. We've recently begun offering safaris in the spring when the fry are visible.
The second program we offer is Youth Theater Camp. When people hear this many of them wonder what on earth Theater have to do with conservation? There are sound reasons for including Youth Theater Camp as one of our Conservation and Education programs; studies have shown that anything that's fun that took place outdoors increases positive associations with the outdoors, that's the first component Youth Theater Camp creates positive associations with the out of doors. In addition we immerse our campers in a culture of leave no trace, outdoor safety, responsibility and respect while teaching them fun theatrical skills (singing, dancing, acting, stage combat) and running them up and down the trail to the Forest Theater improves their physical fitness along the way. Kids are learning a lot of conservation attitudes simply by being part of them. One of the best examples is something witnessed last year.
Many of our campers return every year and they are expected to encourage the new ones and teach them environmental responsibility. One of the returning campers told a new camper not to leave that grape that had fallen on the ground but to pick it up and properly dispose of it. The returning camper explained why we don't leave non-native food around for the critters because that can make them dependent on people, etc. She really got it! So exciting to see that or to see a camper pick up a thread or other tiny piece of trash that's on the ground because we want to leave no trace.
Newest program, and everyone is encouraged to join us, is one we're calling Conservation Conversations. These are potluck socials with a speaker sharing conservation related experiences or information. After their presentation there's a relaxed and casual time to ask questions and discuss issues that the presentation may have brought to light. Bring a potluck dish to share plates and utensils provided. We hope to make this a regular event that happens every two months. We will alternate the Conservation Conversations with Pizza and Work Parties which are weeknight events that work on things like noxious weed removal, trail maintenance on the Big Tree Trail, and general clean up of the Kitsap Cabin property.
April 23 is a big Earth Day Celebration event happening on the property. We'll have a interpretive owl, storyteller, stewardship project (Ivy removal in the Hidden Valley area) theater games, marshmallow and hot dog roast and lots of displays and information and more.
Our programs are driven by the concept of "Environmental Literacy" and we believe that we foster that best by getting people outside. We have seen that once we do get them out there they love it. We participate in National Trails Day and work on some local close in trail because we want people to remember that there is nature in their own back yards it isn't just some back country place that only the truly fit can access.
Currently there are three Mountaineers that make up the Conservation and Education Committee and we are actively looking for more. If you're interested please contact Katha Miller-Winder
or by phone at 360-613-9776 home or 360-621-9916 cell. Membership in the committee does not have to be in an administrative role. We also need people to help with our events as leaders and assistants. There are also a variable number of community advisors who aren't members of The Mountaineers but have a strong interest in what we're doing and in watching our programs grow. The Conservation and Education Committee meets at least quarterly or whenever it seems necessary in person and the rest of our business we conduct via e-mail or phone.
Our projects are driven by the education opportunities provided by having the Rhodo Preserve right there and by an interest in kids and seeing them connect to the outdoors. Projects tend to develop organically beginning when someone has an idea; for example one that is germinating now is Campfire Evenings. Kitsap Cabin has a firepit behind it and seating around it. It would be fun just to invite folks out to sit around the fire and roast hotdogs and make s'mores and sing campfire songs or listen to an interpretive program, or hear a storyteller or... It's a low budget concept with the potential to pull people into our existing programs, etc. but it hasn't quite emerged from the ground yet. You'll see the first hints of green at the Earth Day event. We're giving it a sort of trial run as part of a bigger event and we'll listen closely and watch how popular it is or isn't. Assuming it is a popular thing we'll be collecting contact info and looking for someone who wants to be in charge. If it isn't very popular we'll be rethinking.
We have good relationships with the other conservation groups around us. Our attitude is that we're all working for the same basic goals so we should support each other wherever and whenever we can. This is an attitude shared by the other groups.