Kent's Pine Tree students explore the outdoors

Pine Tree Elementary students received hands-on environmental education at YMCA's Camp Seymour.

Pine Tree Hill elementary sixth-graders learned about the environment by doing outdoor activities.

Pine Tree Hill elementary sixth-graders learned about the environment by doing outdoor activities.

Pine Tree Elementary students received hands-on environmental education at YMCA's Camp Seymour.

Sixth graders Jason Snow, Samantha Domingo and Amanda Elmer studied marine ecosystems, sea creatures and their impact on the environment, from Oct. 31 through Nov. 3.

“At camp, you get to do things that you really can’t learn in a classroom,” Snow said. “We got to learn how to boat, and we got to touch starfish with our hands.”

The students said it was great to be outdoors, away from the classroom.

“It doesn’t even feel like you’re learning because it’s really interesting” says Domingo.

Seymour occupies 180 acres and a shoreline on the Key Peninsula, 30 minutes from Tacoma.The education program introduces a variety of environmental topics, such as water quality and treatment, preserving the forest, understanding what lives in the Puget Sound and tips on how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly.

YMCA staff naturalists come from across the country to share their knowledge and enthusiasm when teaching classes. The program serves 8,000 participants from 96 different schools.

Students participated in classes emphasizing the importance of group work and what it entails.

“Cooperating is so important because you’re going to need to know how to work with other people in your life” Snow said.

Snow, Domingo and Elmer were just three of 68 students spending three nights and four days at Camp Seymour learning about the outdoors and their impact on our environment through the camp’s education program, which enhances the Washington State Essential Learning Standards. Accompanied by volunteer chaperones, teachers and classmates, students participated in canoeing, the climbing wall, squid dissection and marine science.

“Co-op was a good learning opportunity, and it helped us to make friends and to open our minds to new ideas” says Elmer.

Students said after taking classes on sustainability and human impact on the environment, they are more aware of their personal influence on the earth.Snow and Domingo are both going to try to recycle more and try to use less plastic.

“Hands-on experiential education meets students’ needs on so many levels,” said Becca Gjertson, outdoor environmental education director. “Kids need opportunities to be and learn outside.”

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