Anacortes Sixth Graders Learn About Local Watersheds with Salish Sea Expeditions

November 11, 2016

Press Release


Anacortes, WA – Teams of sixth graders at Mount Erie Elementary are huddled around tables wearing safety glasses and gloves. One student holds up a container of stream water taken from Fidalgo Bay, while another carefully adds reagents that will show if the water sample contains trace pollutants. They’re wondering if the nitrate levels they found in a sample taken at Ace of Hearts Creek might show up “downstream” in the marine environment.

Anacortes schools recently concluded three weeks of hands-on “SOURCE” programs led by Salish Sea Expeditions, a regional leader in hands-on marine science and maritime education. The program served students in nine classes from Mount Erie, Island View and Fidalgo Elementary schools.

These SOURCE “watershed” programs are designed to foster awareness of watershed and stormwater issues in the region and link findings with real-world implications for the Puget Sound watershed. Educators from the organization visit school campuses, working closely with teachers, and lead students in science activities in the classroom and on school grounds.

“Salish programs provide hands-on enrichment opportunities for students that extend beyond what is typically taught in the regular science classes,” said Jody Dylan, science teacher at Mount Erie Elementary. “By engaging in water quality testing in our local area, students have the opportunity to practice their science research skills in a meaningful way, as well as make connections between their actions and the impact on our local freshwater and Puget Sound.”

Each multi-day SOURCE program includes student analysis of local water samples for pollutants and nutrients, and discussion of their findings. In one experiment, kids blew bubbles (CO2) into water to change the color of the pH indicator towards more acid. They then added plants from the nearshore (sea lettuce, eelgrass) to their water solution to see if the process of photosynthesis would change the color back to indicate a less acid condition.

“Our learning model is focused on student-led discovery where kids can get out into the research environment and get excited about something that many student only ever read about in a textbook,” said Dan Hannafious,

Salish Sea Expeditions’ Education Director. “It really makes a difference in how they see themselves as competent with science, technology and math.”

The SOURCE program was launched in 2009 as an extension of the marine-focused programs that Salish Sea Expeditions began in 1997. The organization has reached more than 15,000 students and 1,000 teachers with innovative, student-led learning, where students are invited to be curious, become scientists and mariners, and take ownership of discovery through real-world research projects.

SOURCE programs, like those taught in Anacortes, have the option of being combined with Salish Sea Expeditions’ SOUND program, which takes students aboard a working research vessel for 1-5 day expeditions on Puget Sound. While aboard, students conduct experiments, collect data, test hypotheses and ultimately present their findings at an annual student research symposium.

Salish Sea Expeditions’ unique approach to boat-based science learning is combined with maritime skills training.

Student learn navigation, sailing, and how to manage ships’ systems as a team – from meal preparation to line handling and boat safety. Salish runs boat programs aboard the 61-foot sailboat Carlyn, and has recently acquired Elettra III, an 82-foot motor vessel, which will serve students through upcoming program expansion.

Salish will be launching another spring season of SOUND programs beginning in March 2017. Anacortes sixth graders will participate in a 3-day learning expedition on Puget Sound in the middle of May.


Salish Sea Expeditions serves students in grades 5-12 by inspiring a passion for learning through hands-on marine science exploration, maritime skills training and leadership development. Participants take on the role of scientist through boat-based research expeditions on Puget Sound and in local waterways that feed into the Puget Sound watershed. Over the course of a program, students design and conduct real experiments, deploy scientific equipment, gather and analyze data, learn real-world maritime skills, and work as a team to better understand the environmental health of the Salish Sea and its connected waterways. Salish has been a leader in hands-on learning on the waters of Puget Sound since 1997.

For more information, visit or call (206) 780-7848.


Media Inquiries:

Seth Muir, Salish Sea Expeditions
206-780-7848 ext. 1

Media Inquiries

For Media Inquiries please contact at (360) 385-3628 or