Monday, September 27, 2010

North Creek Park Outing

Last week a group of us piled into the Clearwater bus and drove up to North Creek Park. If you live in the area and haven't visited this park, it's well worth a trip. It's a wetland with a boardwalk through it, lots of wildlife and interpretive signs. The flora and fauna vary with the seasons and different wildlife are visible at different times of day.

The day we were there was warm. Although the weather was dry, there are several areas of the board walk that are prone to sink slightly below water level when a bunch of people walk along them at the same time. That was a source of amusement and challenge for several Clearwater students, who wanted all of us to walk or stand on a section, submerging it so they could have the fun of escaping the deluge or wading in it.

Heading down to the boardwalk

One interpretive sign talked about the importance of wetlands, describing them metaphorically as the kidneys of the earth. Clearwater staff member Matt thought it would be fun to talk about his own kidneys as the wetlands of the body. A little later, a student extended the metaphor further and suggested that lakes might be the bladders of the earth.

Reading about the function of wetlands

Delicate floating duckweed

Girls returning from a boardwalk spur to a peat bog

Because wetlands help clean storm water, the fact that Clearwater is downstream of North Creek Park means that the creek is cleaner when it gets to us than before it goes through the park. In fact, we noticed areas of water in the park that had an oily sheen and the appearance of sludge.

We also noticed and heard lots of birds and insects, and saw the occasional garter snake.

Fun with flooded boardwalk

Girls voluntarily trapping themselves on platform

Common Touch-Me-Not or Jewelweed (Impatiens noli-tangere)

Water Smartweed (Polygonum amphibium)

A lovely nosegay made by a student

In spite of one minor injury (a nettle sting), everyone spent a lot of time exploring the board walk and dirt trails of the park. After exploring the wetland, we all met up at the playground by the parking lot, where everyone played. Photos and information about that part of the trip will be in a post later this week.

End of post.

Monday, September 20, 2010

First Week of School

The first week of school has ended and the second week begins at Clearwater. The word that best describes the week for me is joy. Everyone is so happy about being back and hanging out with friends. There is so much to talk about, to do, to try, to experience. Everyone is a little older, more mature, more themselves. Of course, this happens through the school year, too, but the three-month gap makes the difference seem more striking and even miraculous.Even after being on staff for 15 years, I feel such wonder and gratitude to be able to know the incredible people who attend Clearwater and witness their growth.

The big news in terms of our physical environment is that a lot of sockeye salmon are returning to spawn in North Creek. The bulk of their bodies are an intense red-orange color, the head and tail are green, and the top of their snout is hooked down to enable them to dig depressions for egg laying in the silt of the creek bed. After two previous years with no salmon sightings, it is wonderful to be able to see their tenacity as they move upstream past little rapids and waterfalls.

The glare on the water inteferred with really clear photos of the fish, but the red bodies are visible even through the glare. Many salmon rest for long periods in a calm, deep pool south of the foot bridge before marshalling their energy to push upstream again.

Three girls who performed acrobatics on the spinning bar at Whistlepig last spring are continuing to refine their technique, experiment and add new moves. It is mesmerizing to see their focus, their willingness to try things even when the results look awkward. They are planning to have a whole new routine to present at Whistlepig next spring. Two of them are pictured here.

The foosball table also saw some action.

The punching bag in the basement attracted 5- and 6-year-old girls who walloped it within an inch of its life.

Several students want to learn and practice tennis, which inspired Matt, staff member and sports guru, to create a tennis/pickle ball court in the active room.

While two younger students waited for Matt and Robert to finish their game so they could take the court, they served as skilled ball boys.

End of post.