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Celebrating Alaska Seas and Watersheds in Your School and Community

Teaching about Alaska Sea and Watersheds can begin or culminate in a celebration! For many teachers and their students, a field trip to the beach, river, lake, pond, or other nearby wetland is the highlight of the year – a time of delight and awe, intrigue and excitement. The many connections and interconnections of marine and freshwater environments and watersheds are a natural theme that can be taught during science, mathematics, language, history, social studies, art, and even music through the crash of a wave, the scuttle of a crab, the drift of a kayak, the bark of a seal, the taste of smoked salmon, the scent of a riverbank. 

One of the best aspects of teaching about Alaska seas and watersheds can be the opportunity for students, teachers and community residents to work together in celebrating the aquatic environment. Students can work together to decorate the whole school; one class can inspire another; older students can do programs for younger ones and vice versa; community members can help with field trips and speakers. An air of excitement can pervade halls and classrooms! 

Preparing for a school-wide spring celebration can begin in the fall, although some schools are so far north in Alaska that their field trips and celebrations happen in the fall as a kick-off for the school year. To get the entire school engaged, propose a celebration and enlist teachers, parents, and other community members to be part of a Sea Week, River Week, or Watershed Week committee. But, if you need to, don’t hesitate to try it on your own or with just a few other teachers. By the following year, when they’ve had a chance to see what you’ve done, others will be ready to join in the celebration.

PLANNING A CELEBRATION

  • Brainstorm ideas with other teachers and parents. List names of parents and local resource people who can help make your celebration a success. You’ll find most people pleased to be asked and more than happy to help. 

  • Identify community resource people who can be invited to share their local and traditional knowledge with students as speakers and guest teachers (fishermen, net menders, Coast Guard personnel, boat captains, artists, and musicians or storytellers and to suggest potential field trip sites (e.g., beaches, wetlands, lake and river shores, harbors, canneries, seafood markets, salmon spawning streams, marshes, hatcheries, and museums). If your school has bilingual teachers, ask them to identify and help provided cultural connections.  

  • One or more parents or teacher can be appointed to coordinate speaker schedules, movies, and field trip transportation, and to generate school district support.

  • Contact your chamber of commerce, village council/borough government, and other community groups, inviting them to sponsor complementary events such as festivals, seafood dinners, slide shows, and speakers.

  • If your school is inland, consid  er exchanges with a coastal school. Send a selection of items found on your field trips, a class story, or photos. Perhaps they can send you fish stories, pieces of net, floats, seaweed, beach sand. Try to acquire a saltwater aquarium for your school.

  • Field trips and other Seas and Watersheds activities make good news features. Consider contacting your local newspaper, television or radio station. Reporters often enjoy going to the beach as much as students do! Provide as much information as possible to all community media.

IDEAS FOR A CELEBRATION

  • Have an “underwater” circus, play, or puppet show. Ask students to each pick an animal. Make sea animal hand puppets out of paper bags, with features cut out of construction paper and glued on. Have students plan appropriate acts involving their animal. Practice and then do a program for parents and other classes.

  • Have things for children to do during the celebration. Make a puppet area where younger children can play with sea and/or river creature puppets. Create a “hallway scavenger hunt” for older children.

  • Hold a scientific conference or poster session for the whole school, letting children share the research they did in their lessons, or pick a service-oriented topic that the whole school can get involved in. “How can we protect our beaches?” “How can we clean up our beaches?”

  • Let children be ambassadors for seas and rivers and lead hallway field trips or other activities.

    FOR MORE GRADE-SPECIFIC IDEAS, SEE THE LAST INVESTIGATION IN EACH OF THE ALASKA SEAS AND WATERSHEDS UNITS

IDEAS FOR DECORATING THE SCHOOL

  • Create an underwater world in an alcove, stairwell, classroom, or hallway. Hang colored tissue paper beneath fluorescent lights to act as a filter; hang art projects and seaweed streamers from the ceiling; make murals; ask students to bring water treasures from home such as nets, floats, shells and driftwood.

  • Make paper waves from construction paper and tape to window shades. Tape water birds, boats and planes above the waves, and water animals below them.When the shades are drawn, it’s low tide!

  • Have the class cut jellyfish shapes from coarse sandpaper. Color the sandpaper heavily. Place a sheet of white paper over each sandpaper jellyfish and iron over it to make a jellyfish impression. 

  • Make sea stars. Cover a piece of paper with red finger paint. When the paint has dried, draw and cut out the outline of a sea star. Using a sponge and orange tempera paint, give the sea star a mottled look. Brush tempera on a dried sea star. Sometimes one can be found freshly dead at the beach (but don’t kill any just for an art project!) Cover it with a sheet of newsprint. Holding the paper in place, gently rub over the sea star to transfer its image.

  • Make water paintings, using powdered tempera paint, sand and diluted glue. Clean the sand and mix with paint powder (not too much). Keep the colored sand in baby-food jars. Spread glue on paper with a paintbrush and sprinkle sand over the wet glue. Students can make original designs or use ones that have been photocopied. Frame and hang these.

  • Make a “water letter mural." Attach a long piece of paper to the wall. Have students use a black marker or crayon to outline an aquatic plant or animal; then color the drawings and label with the first letter of their creatures’ names. When finished, students should notify the teacher so that the animals’ full names can be added.

  • Make crabs out of construction paper circles folded in half.

  • Cut out butcher paper to make life-sized seals and large fish, paint them and stuff them with crumpled paper.  

  • Make life-sized whale shapes using large sheets of paper taped together. 

  • Make a river environment in the hallway, connecting to the sea.  

  • Have a “read down the hall” activity with riddles and flip books posted for children to read, guess, and check. 

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