It’s been over a decade now since the conception and development of the Suquamish Basket Marsh. This outdoor classroom for environmental learning on the grounds of Suquamish Elementary School, in the town of Suquamish Washington, is a product of an ongoing collaboration between the school, teachers, students, parents; volunteers from the community; the Suquamish Tribe, and local businesses.
This chain link fence once surrounded a drainage catchment area, off limits to students, which was basically a barren depression in the landscape, spotted with weeds. It’s singular function, was to slow down the flow of rainwater draining off of the impermeable roof surfaces and paved streets in the area, into the Puget Sound. Lushootseed is the language spoken by the Salish Peoples indigenous to this particular part of the world. The Suquamish Tribe has given this place the name, Gelk’ali, which means “Place of Weaving”.
After sculpting the terrain to create a pond for water retention; then adding berms and swells, planted with native plants; this spot of land now serves multiple functions. Not only does the Gelk’ali serve as a place for mitigating storm water drainage into Puget Sound which benefits threatened or endangered salmon species, but also the roots of these plants help to filter and clean the rainwater that recharges our aquifer for our drinking water.
Best of all, this place is evolving each year with new groups of students and teachers who utilize it as an outdoor classroom.
And teaching-artists like myself, have a chance to share lessons that integrate science and culture through the process of making art.
The Pond Kids budding young naturalists. They are representatives from the 3rd-5th grade classes, who are responsible for maintaining the Gelk’ali. They meet weekly after school, and report back to their classes about what is happening at the Basket Marsh.
This year we made clam shell rattle necklaces together, beginning with the cooked clams and clam nectar.
It was a real pleasure to be invited back and meet another enthusiastic group of young people who know so much about the natural world, because they are able to spend time interacting with the plants and creatures that live at the Gelk’ali.
Of the four visits I made in May, we got a few nice afternoons to work together outside, between rain showers.
This young lady was super industrious and made many more necklaces at home to give as gifts to her elders.
The students made extra necklaces to give as gifts to the Suquamish Tribal Council at their next meeting.
This Pond Kid alumni volunteered at each meeting was a help to all the younger Pond Kids.
Many thanks to Jan Jackson, the instigator and director of the Gelk’ali since it’s beginnings in 2000. I’m grateful to have been invited back this year. It was pure delight working with these students, and being at the Gelk’ali, to see how it has grown and changed over time.
You can read more details about the development of the Gelk’ali at: http://clearingmagazine.org/archives/1416