Gateway

Big grant will help Harbor WildWatch expand its youth programs

Discovery kindergartener Mia Legener and her grandma Diana Ono are fascinated by the skulls displayed by Harbor WildWatch education director Rachel Easton during an event in April.
Discovery kindergartener Mia Legener and her grandma Diana Ono are fascinated by the skulls displayed by Harbor WildWatch education director Rachel Easton during an event in April. Contributing writer

Harbor WildWatch will expand its “lock box” program and other youth activities in Pierce and Kitsap counties after recently receiving a $25,000 grant from the Windows of Hope Foundation.

“We celebrated quite a lot ‘cause 45 percent of our funding comes from grants,” said Rachel Easton, education director for WildWatch.

Some of the money will be used to hire a half-time educator who will develop partnerships with the Tacoma and Clover Park school districts, WildWatch officials said.

“This will initially be done by attending STEM or STEAM nights at schools and increasing promotion of the STEM club,” WildWatch said in a statement to the Gateway.

WildWatch also will expand its lock box program.

A lock box is similar to an escape room, where participants have about an hour to solve riddles to ultimately escape from an area.

In the WildWatch program, students work together to solve riddles using clues about subject matter they’ve learned through educational programming to open a locked box. It is a way to test their knowledge in a fun environment.

Harbor WildWatch is an nonprofit organization with goals of inspiring stewardship and educating Gig Harbor people about Puget Sound and local marine life. The organization began in 2004 by holding two programs that reached about 250 people. Today, it holds closer to 600 programs a year, reaching over 30,000 people. Those programs include collecting scientific data and holding public speakings and monthly scientific socials.

Aside from grants, the organization gets 45 percent of its funding from donations and 10 percent from the costs of its programming.

WildWatch is hired by elementary schools to teach four programs: geology, water, life series and advanced life series. The programs consist of three informational lessons followed by the lock box test. Once the box is unlocked, participants find what appears to be a blank piece of paper inside. Shining a UV light on the paper reveals signatures penned with invisible ink by past students who have completed the lock box.

WildWatch received a significantly smaller donation from Windows of Hope Foundation in the past, with the money put into creating the first lock box for the geology series.

The new money will be put toward materials for the additional lock boxes, as well as time spent to create them. Easton is currently working on building three boxes, with hopes they will soon be available to use. The fourth box will be created for their STEM program.

The lock boxes also are available for teachers to use outside the WildWatch program.

  Comments