A Trip to the Woods: Revisiting Childhood at Islandwood Environmental Center

This year EPA’s Community Involvement Training Conference was held in Seattle, Washington. EPA employees as well as staff from other federal and state agencies and the private sector attended the three day conference. As part of the conference, various field trips were offered. I signed up for mine in advance and was very excited to learn more about this facility. My expectations were met and exceeded. Islandwood Environmental Center is a school in the woods for kids in grades 4th to 6th. Nestled among a 255-acre woody area – hence the name – on Bainbridge Island, Islandwood is the place we all wished we could have attended as kids. During our visit, Ginger, our tour guide, gave us a glimpse of what it is like to be a student visiting Islandwood. Using Puget Sound’s rich cultural history and the environment around it, the programs integrate art, science and technology. Their facilities are all sustainable and energy efficient and it is not uncommon to run into compost piles in the large dining room.

image of a teepee shaped treehouseIslandwood is not open to the general public. Instead it operates as an overnight four-day stay for schools from within the state that otherwise do not have resources to provide their students this kind of experience. I marveled at their integrated curriculum that included hands on learning. This state of the art educational facility boasts a wet lab, a greenhouse called the Living Machine, an art studio, a floating observation classroom inside a marsh, a bog tree house and a 190-foot-long suspension bridge.

Islandwood is a great example of how communities, the private sector, the government and academia can work together to provide a one of a kind experience that can foster environmental stewardship. Graduate students from the University of Washington along with artists, biologists and educators work together to help students fulfill Washington State’s requirements of mandatory environmental education (1990).
After touring the facilities and walking for a few miles inside the woods, observing ancient large leafed maple trees, pine trees, wild blueberries and birds, I did not want to leave. In fact, I was one of the last people to get back on the bus. Islandwood was a unique experience and reminded me why I love my career in the environmental field so much.

About the author: Brenda Reyes Tomassini joined EPA in 2002. She is a public affairs specialists in the San Juan, Puerto Rico office and handles community relations for the Caribbean Environmental Protection Division.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

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Un viaje al bosque: Un viaje a la niñez

Este año la Conferencia de EPA para Relaciones con la Comunidad se llevó a cabo en la ciudad de Seattle, en el estado de Washington. Personal de la agencia al igual que empleados del gobierno federal, estatal y la industria privada asisitieron a este adiestramiento de tres días que tuvo como propósito primordial analizar las tecnologías emergentes a la hora de comunicarnos con las comunidades y ofrecernos herramientas para ser más efectivos a la hora de llevar a cabo nuestro trabajo. Como parte de este evento se coordinaron varias visitas de campo. Yo me anoté en la mía con varios meses de anticipación ya que sabía que esta era la mejor parte de la conferencia. Y ciertamente no me equivoqué. El Centro Educativo Ambiental Islandwood es una escuela en el bosque. Ubicado en un predio de 255 acres de terreno forestal en la Isla de Bainbridge y cerca de un viejo aserradero, Islandwood es el lugar que muchos de nosotros quisimos visitar de niños. Utilizando la historia cultural de Puget Sound y el medioambiente a su alrededor como trasfondo, los programas de Islandwood integran arte, ciencia y tecnología para enriquecer el currículo de estudiantes de 4to a 6to grado.

Islandwood no está abierto al público en general. Opera como una escuela con estadía nocturna de cuatro días en sus facilidades sustentables. Muchos de los chicos que llegan a Islandwood provienen de escuelas que no pueden proveer a sus estudiantes este tipo de experiencia. Sus facilidades incluyen un laboratorio, un estudio de arte, un invernadero llamado The Living Machina, un salón de clases flotante dentro de una ciénaga, una casa-árbol y un puente de suspensión de 190 pies de largo.

Esta facilidad es un gran ejemplo de cómo la comunidad, el sector privado y las instituciones académicas pueden trabajar juntos para proveer una experiencia singular a jóvenes que no cuentan con este tipo de facilidad o medioambiente a su alrededor. Estudiantes graduados de la Universidad de Washington así como artistas, biólogos y educadores trabajan juntos para ayudar a los estudiantes a cumplir con el requisito del estado de Washington de educación ambiental mandatoria (1990) .

Luego de visitar las facilidades tuvimos la grata experiencia de caminar unas cuantas millas dentro del bosque. Entre la vegetación de árboles milenaros y coníferos me sentí nuevamente como una niña. Por poco no llego de vuelta al autobús! Islandwood me recordó el por que amo tanto mi carrera en el campo ambiental.

Sobre la autor: Brenda Reyes Tomassini se unió a la EPA en el 2002. Labora como especialista de relaciones públicas en la oficina de EPA en San Juan, Puerto Rico donde también maneja asuntos comunitarios para la División de Protección Ambiental del Caribe.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.