Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Teaching Through Song

We are lucky enough to have another amazing Artist in Residence with us this week. Joe Reilly singer, songwriter and educator extraordinair is here to lead the School Overnight Program students in songs at evening campfire and is working with four field groups to create songs of their own! 

Last night he also led a professional development session with the grads and staff and helped us work through the process of creating our own group song: "Every Heart Lives in a Watershed" (working title). Now, I'm admittedly pretty biased but with lines like "It's not a house with water in it" and "Connecting water sources for the raccoons, humans, bears and horses" I think we might have a hit on our hands. Check it out in the video below. I've posted the lyrics in case you want to sing along. Enjoy!


Every Heart Lives in a Watershed
By IslandWood Grads and Staff and Joe Reilly

Verse 1 (D & G)
It's not a house with water in it.
The highest point is where we begin it.
An area of land where the water drains.
A collection of streams from the mountains to the plains/planes.

Chorus x 4 (D & G)
Watersheds within watersheds
It keeps flowing and growing
From where it starts to where it ends
Everyone lives in a watershed

Verse 2: (D & G)
Connecting water sources
for the raccoons, humans, bears and horses
it's everywhere water goes
sometimes its fast, sometimes its slow

Chorus x 4 (D & G)
Bridge: (E minor & D)
Runoff from city streets
Dog poop and trash from last week
The rain picks it up and it trickles down
pollutes the water in our town
pollutes the water in the ground
pollutes in the Puget Sound

Verse 3: (D & G)
So scoop dog poop and pick up trash
ride your bike
Hey! tell your class!
Its important to keep it clean
you can start in your closest stream
use your heart and your head
every heart lives in a watershed

Chorus x 4 (D & G)
Every heart lives in a watershed

Thinking about using our song? Have thoughts on using song writing as a teaching tool? Share your comments below!

Thursday, February 21, 2013


In the past few weeks a handful of current IslandWood graduate students have traveled over to northern Seattle to  shadow former IslandWood instructors working for King County's Brightwater Center.

Brightwater is a wastewater treatment system created to accommodate the growing King County. The plant began to operate in September 2011 and serves portions of King and Snohomish counties. Concurrent with operations beginning, IslandWood initiated a program that focused on the educational material a center like Brightwater could share share with the surrounding area. Currently, Brightwater offers educational programs that range from the water cycle to ecosystems to macroinvertebrates.

On the day that I visited I was fortunate enough to shadow Brian, a former IslandWood graduate. The focus for the day was the water cycle. Before heading out, Brian had the children brainstorm the various materials or compounds that could be extracted from the every day home. This was then broken down into four main stages that coincide with the Brightwater system.

1. Trash Removal
2. Organic Matter Removal
3. Bacteria Removal
4. Chemical Removal

He then went on to have each student complete a paper illustrating the Puget Sound Watershed.

Puget Sound Watershed
A student work detailing the water cycle and how it ties in to the Puget Sound Watershed.

The tour following this illustration took participants through every stage of the water treatment process. Clad in hard hats, we dove in deep.

 Brian Teaching 
Brian explaining one of the four stages of removal.

 The Final Drop
This is the final drop as water leaves Brightwater center. From this pour over, the water travels 13 miles and drains into the Puget Sound.

I learned a lot about water and a lot about what happens every time we turn on a sink, flush a toilet, or run the garbage disposal.

If you ever have the opportunity to visit Brightwater, do it.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Clay Animation!

IslandWood has been so very fortunate to host Artist In Residence Lukas Allenbaugh this week for our School Overnight Program. Lukas is the Inventor and Director of the Clay Animation Network. What exactly does this mean? Simply put, this week Lukas is playing host to four lucky groups of students who will create short clay animation films detailing some the IslandWood currciulum. Those films are still in the process of being completed. Let the suspense build.

However, last night Lukas did a Professional Development Seminar for the graduate students and it was... AMAZING! Using the 12th generation of Lukas' film station creations, we dove in head first. He has fine-tuned his craft throughout the years and has engineered an incredibly simple yet sophisticated arrangement that combines iPads, Legos, and a few other assorted materials into transportable filming stations. We all embraced such a wonderful opportunity and totally went for it.

Don't believe me, take a look for yourself!

Love Explosion

Hungry Birds

Paging Dr. Seaworthy

Riley and Megan Play Catch
Clay animation is unbelievably addicting. Should you ever have the opportunity, seize it!


Saturday, February 9, 2013



Ecosystems, Ecosystems, Ecosystems! IslandWood is chockafulla' ecosystems. We have the pond. We have the forest. We have the marsh. We have canopies. We have the ravine. We have the haarbah (harbor). And, we have the bog.

Thursday brought about a highlight of my IslandWood experience as we donned rubber boots and went in to explore the bog for our Natural History & Ecology course. Delicately traveling upon the Sphagnum Moss, we pushed onward while exploring the resilient plants only found in this often times "nutrient-lacking" environment.

Rather than spoil such a Narnic environment, I am hoping that the word Sphagnum has already whetted your appetite for some future boggin'. If not, you might be interested to know that the verdict is still out on whether IslandWood's bog is actually a bog or whether it is in fact a fen.

Either way, it is way more fun to say boggin' than is is to say fenin'.

Chockafulla', over and out.


P.S. Tread lightly... There are some boot breachin' sink holes out there.

Monday, February 4, 2013


EE: Theory & Practice 

"Each week we choose a theme and put together different kinds of stories on that theme." Sound familiar? If so, it's because I borrowed it from Ira Glass' weekly radio show This American Life. No, unfortunately IslandWood isn't being featured in an episode. However, our Environmental Education: Theory & Practice course this quarter has followed a very similar mantra.

Each week we've been assigned readings that correspond to a particular "theme" or "topic" that we'll explore in detail.

Week One: The Challenge of Environmental Education
Week Two: The History of Environmental Education
Week Three: Play & The Design Of Games That Teach
Week Four: What Makes Education Environmental?

We just wrapped up week four. In the photograph above our professor is helping to dissect an enormous whiteboard full of our comments based on one of our readings. Without spoken words, we were directed to document our thoughts through "silent conversation" prompted by the questions, "What are Lieberman and Hoody implying regarding method/desired outcomes?" and "What does this mean for you?" (Lieberman and Hoody wrote an Executive Summary titled "Closing The Achievement Gap: Using The Environment As An Integrating Context For Learning.").

With 30 minds combing through our material it's interesting to see how differently each individual can interpret an author's words. An article that resonates with one person can have a completely different impact on another. Yet, through these discussions we are able to delve deeper into each topic and choose what we plan to use in our own individual craft.

It's the differences we find amongst one another that provide the richest content.


Friday, February 1, 2013

Embracing Their Inner Goldworthy

Our recent Goldsworthy lesson paved the way for this week's students to fully immerse themselves in creativity. After an introduction to Andy Goldsworthy's artwork, students were set loose upon Blakely Harbor. Here are a few of their pieces.

A driftwood ninja created by two students. While debriefing the lesson, one of the students stressed how each piece of wood was integral to the formation of the piece. He bent over, grabbed a small piece of wood and said, "This piece doesn't look important when you hold it in your hand but it's actually the perfect piece for the elbow."

A collaborative color gradation assembled by three students. It took careful beach combing to bring this to life.

 Rock Demon
And finally, this "Rock Demon" was developed by two students who spent much of their time carefully crushing brick pieces into fine dust so they could "paint" the face on this rock. After they constructed their canvas, they collected vegetation for the hair, rocks for its eyes and mouth, and a Rosehip berry for it's nose.

The tide was the lowest I've experienced at Blakely Harbor and inevitably it began to rise as we departed. As one of our ninja artists caught a final glimpse of his creation he asked, "Do you think my ninja will be there next week?" "I don't know," I replied. "Either way I'll never look at that spot the same again."