The latest project of the 26-student Discovery Lab school in Ellensburg focused on environmental issues in the shrub-steppe ecosystem of the Kittitas Valley.
Students created a video and self published a book on what they learned during the project.
The Discovery Lab private school uses a hands-on approach to education, where students learn to connect their classroom work with their surroundings and the issues important to central Washington.
The four-month shrub-steppe project earned the school a seat at the Environmental and Sustainability Literacy Summit in Tumwater on Feb. 23 where students will share their work with Gov. Jay Inslee, state legislators and other state government officials.
“The kids really fell in love with the shrub-steppe, because it is very much part of their place. They became interested in sharing messages about how to sustain and protect it,” Discovery Lab founder and Director Natalia Parker said.
“The older kids ended up creating a video with participation from most of the school. With support, they made the music, wrote a script, built props and told a story that they felt would call human attention to the importance of the shrub-steppe.
“The younger kids learned that there weren’t many children’s books on the shrub-steppe published. So they wrote and published their own, which they are donating copies of at Ellensburg Public Library.”
While the entire student body worked on the project, Nellie Parker, Malcolm Cox, Olen Eckland and Chiara Hochstein will make the presentation at the Environmental and Sustainability Literacy Summit.
“My favorite animals from the shrub-steppe are the pigmy rabbits and the wolves. Last year, I did a project on endangered species and learned all about how pigmy rabbits are endangered, and so are the wolves,” Nellie Parker said.
As they sat at a table at the Discovery Lab on Pearl Street, the students collected their thoughts as to what they might tell Inslee about the shrub-steppe and the Kittitas Valley.
“I like the giant open area of the shrub-steppe and I like how dry it is,” Eckland said. “I think it’s important to tell the governor about our project. He needs to know what’s important to us here.”
Hochstein said: “I like that we’re helping to bring awareness to our area. I’m going to tell the governor about what we learned. It’s pretty cool that I’m the only one in my family that has the chance to do that.”
The Environmental and Sustainability Literacy Summit invites students to present projects that highlight learning and student activities focused on climate and environmental education.
“I think it’s important to tell the governor about our project and what’s important here,” Cox said. “I like this project because we learned about what plants or animals are endangered, so I can be more careful around them.
“I think it’s also pretty cool to be able to represent our school.”
Discovery Lab was founded in 2011 by Parker and Tosha Woods as an effort to bring more diverse educational opportunities to Kittitas County. The vision statement said Parker and Woods wanted to create learning environments that were adaptive and able to provide authentic and meaningful engagement for students.
The lead teacher on the shrub-steppe project was Brooklyn Edgar, while Kyle Bain assisted.
“It’s really cool to see what happens when you give the kids the freedom to think and to see the ideas they are able to come up with,” Edgar said. “To watch them grow in their passion over a sagebrush area, learning about the animals and learn about what’s happening. We were able to see their passion for it grow.
“Even though they are 7 to 9 years old, they are encouraged that their voices can be heard, and they can make a difference.”