While staying with family recently, we visited South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve whose mission is to promote research and education about estuaries on the outer coast of Washington, Oregon, and northern California. When I was teaching full time, I brought students to South Slough each year for extensive outdoor school experiences.
It was my goal this past month to provide my kiddos with a similar experience and allow them a chance to discover the Secret of the Medallion for themselves, an estuary field trip or study program offered through the South Slough. We were delighted to share our estuary field trip experience with my mom and her friend.
South Slough is the south western arm of the larger Coos estuary. An estuary is a very rich natural environment where fresh water meets and mixes with salt water. A “slough” is a quiet arm of an estuary. The source of the estuary’s salt water is the sea; the sources of its fresh water are the rivers and streams of the watershed.
Explore the Habitats
The excursion began at the Hidden Creek Trail Head, just below the interpretive center parking area. As we proceeded along the trail, we passed through several distinct habitats – upland forests, wetlands, flood plain, tide flats (mudflats), open water, and eventually these lead us to the sea; all interconnected via the watershed and the animals that depend upon the vegetation that grows there. We enjoyed stopping along the trail periodically when plants and critters caught our attention. Interpretive signage also provided additional insight into the ecology of the area.
Through our visit to the reserve, our discussions, and the activities in which we took part at home (see my earlier post, Secret of the Tides), the kids developed a greater understanding of what an estuary is, why an estuary is important, and knowledge that estuaries change because of natural processes and human use.
Integrated Unit Studies
If you would like to explore related lessons and inquiry activities, check out Estuary Ecology, a fourteen lesson hands-on life science curriculum unit study that focuses upon estuaries and salt water marshes.
Submitted to the Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival at Handbook of Nature Study.