Scholarships let classes get sea savvy

Posted: Wednesday, January 11, 2006


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  Dylan Jackson shows off a plankton tow used to dredge up plankton during a Crabs on Board field trip Kendall┐s class took with the center last year.

Dylan Jackson shows off a plankton tow used to dredge up plankton during a Crabs on Board field trip Kendall’s class took with the center last year.

Photos courtest of Annie Kendall

With the money available for field trips getting harder to come by, and the cost of trips always increasing, several teachers on the Kenai Peninsula received a pleasant surprise recently when the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies awarded seven $500 scholarships for classes to participate in its programs.

“It’s always helpful to get scholarships. Every year it gets more expensive,” said Gail Knobf, a teacher at Tustumena Elementary School.

In addition to Knobf, the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies also awarded scholarships to Terri Carter and Kelly Belise at Kalifornsky Beach Elementary School, Annie Kendall and Kristine Barnes at Nikiski North Star Elementary, and Carole Demers and Ann Heimbuch at West Homer Elementary.

Knobf has been taking classes on field trips with the center since 1991.

“It’s the best. I just love their programs,” Knobf said. “... It goes right up the alley of our sixth-grade curriculum — the study of ocean animals and ecosystems. They have all hands-on activities, and it ties in to our adopt-a-stream at Crooked Creek.”

The center offers several programs for school groups, including programs at its Wynn Nature Center in Homer, oceanographic cruises on Kachemak Bay aboard the Rainbow Explorer, and overnight trips to the Peterson Bay field station, located on the south side of Kachemak Bay.

Knobf said the studies conducted on the oceanographic cruise were relevant to the class curriculum and to her students’ community.


Dylan Jackson shows off a plankton tow used to dredge up plankton during a Crabs on Board field trip Kendalls class took with the center last year.

“When we were doing water sampling in Kachemak Bay, we could compare it to water sampling at Crooked Creek. Since we’re in Kasilof, many of our families are commercial fishermen, so it’s extremely important to our community, helping future fishermen as well as learning to be caretakers of our environment — which is probably the most important thing to learn,” Knobf said.

Knobf said her class was able to use microscopes and did testing for things such as water temperature, pH and turbidity.

“They’re actually being little scientists, doing what scientists do,” Knobf said. “The kids always love going out on that boat, and the people there are so good with kids. They’ve worked with them so much, they really know how to make those kids learn what they’re supposed to learn and have fun doing it.”

Last year, Knobf’s class examined oysters, even opening a few up and giving them a taste.

Students also counted crabs that had been caught in crab pots, then releasing the crabs.

Marilyn Sigman, executive director of the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies, said the mission statement of the center is to “foster responsible interactions with our natural surroundings.”

“We do that through education, research and stewardship activities, but education has been our primary effort for all the years we’ve been working,” Sigman said.

Sigman said between 20 and 25 school groups take field trips with the center each spring.

Knopf said it costs more than $50 per student to attend a program. Her class has raffled quilts to help raise money for the trip, and the scholarship certainly helps.

Sigman said the scholarships were made possible by a sponsorship from ConocoPhillips Alaska.

“This is the first time we were able to set up the scholarship program,” Sigman said.

“They (ConocoPhillips) have a charitable giving program. We’ve had these teachers coming to the program for years and years. The cost keeps increasing. We started looking for a corporate sponsor. ... We made a proposal to them, and I know they support education.”

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