Orchard Heights receives $5,000 grant for outdoor learning

Most years, Orchard Heights Elementary School fifth-graders get to spend a day in a boat on Puget Sound to learn about the water and what it takes to keep it healthy.

“They get to be little scientists,” said fifth-grade teacher Maggie Olson, explaining that the annual trip is made through Pacific Marine research, which is owned by Argosy Cruises.

“They take water samples and analyze them, then talk to and see a diver while he’s in the water” taking about pollution and its adverse effects.

Prior to the trip, Olson said the students learn about the water cycle and how what you do to your front yard affects the Sound and other bodies of water.

“The message is about the watershed and how all of us contribute,” she said.

However, due to financial constraints this year, Olson said the school did not send students on the cruise.

“It costs $35 a kid, and usually the parents have had to come up with the money,” she said.

However, Olson recently learned that she was awarded a $5,000 grant she applied for, which she hopes will cover the cost of the trip for the next two years, if they charge parents a very small fee.

“At $35 a student, if we sent 100 kids, that would cost $3,500,” she said. “But if we charge each student $2, or $5, that might save us enough to pay for two years instead of one.”

The grant is being provided by the Royal Bank of Canada’s Blue Water Project, which RBC describes as “a wide-ranging, multi-year program to help foster a culture of water stewardship (and) create a ‘blue water future’ of sustainable water resources worldwide.”

The first phase of the project is a grant program that will $50 million over 10 years.

RBC said Orchard Heights was chosen to receive the money because of its “shared commitment to protect watersheds,” and its shared belief “that when students learn at an early age the importance of their role to the health of the watersheds, they are more likely to become responsible stewards as adults.”

Olson said she being applying for multiple environmental grants, and still hopes to receive one that will help the school pay for the weeklong “outdoor school” in the Olympic National Park that her students also attend.

“This year, all of our money went to the outdoor school,” she said, explaining that the students hold several fundraisers throughout the year — car washes, pizza sales — to raise money to be able to attend the program.

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