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Youth Involvement Leads to Improved Trail Resources

Posted by Rachel Wendling at Jul 24, 2017 04:27 PM |

Ingrid Phillips, an avid hiker, backpacker, and sea kayaker, is a sophomore at Stanwood high school, and member of WTA’s 2016-2017 Youth Ambassador cohort. This winter, she worked with an elementary school class to improve trail visibility on Camano Island.

Ingrid Phillips, an avid hiker, backpacker, and sea kayaker, is a sophomore at Stanwood high school, and member of WTA’s 2016-2017 Youth Ambassador cohort.

Mrs. Anderton and her class pose in front of an informational sign at a Camano Island trailhead. Photo by Twin City Elementary Staff.

by Ingrid Phillips

For my Youth Ambassador project, I wanted to involve my community while improving our local trail resources. Coming from the Stanwood-Camano area, I personally knew of several great hikes on Camano Island that didn’t yet have hiking guide entries in WTA’s online collection. These hikes were hidden gems --there weren’t many ways to find them online or in paper despite their incredible ecology. The resources that did exist for these trails were often incomplete or unclear.

I wanted to change this by writing hiking guide entries for a few Camano Island trails, and involving my community while I was at it. To make this dream a reality, I decided to contact Cheryl Anderton, a former elementary school teacher of mine. Her 4th and 5th grade classes from Twin City Elementary does many projects with real life applications, which aligned perfectly with the goals of my ambassador project. One of her projects included the creation of personal survival kits, which the students were later tested on by traveling to a park and “surviving” for a day by building shelters and purifying water

I got in touch with Mrs. Anderton this past winter, and we planned this project to be completed over the next couple months. We chose two hikes -- Camano Ridge Forest Preserve and Elger Bay Nature Preserve. Mrs. Anderton worked out transportation for the kids with Island Transit, our local public bus service, while I spoke with the people who maintain the trails; Friends of Camano Island Parks, and Anna Roth, WTA's Hiking Content Manager.

The students loved the opportunity to get out of the classroom, and participate in a hands-on learning project. Photo by Twin City Elementary Staff.

I created an outline for the students, detailing what information we needed to collect, and had them bring cameras to document the trails conditions in photos. Pretty soon, we were ready to hit the trails. We did our first hike together in late March at Camano Ridge Forest Preserve. Of course, we stuck to WTA’s three main rules, safety, fun, and lastly, work. We tracked our elevation gain and mileage as we hiked, while playing the popular trail game “Contact” and sharing many stories and jokes. The students and I had a great time, and everyone was raring to go again!

Our next hike was at the Elger Bay Nature Preserve, a trail that Mrs. Anderton’s class had hiked previously. To mix it up, we hiked the trail in reverse from how they normally hike it. We stopped at a few places to have a snack and to read the interpretive signs along the side of this trail. It was a beautiful day, and the kids got great pictures and information for the trail. I centralized all of their data and made driving directions to get to the trailheads.

The students were all smiles despite the rain on their mid-spring hikes. Photo by Twin City Elementary Staff.

The students loved the hikes so much, we collectively decided to finish one final project. We decided to write a trip report for Camano Island State Park and have the students create youth activities for the Loop Trail. The hike was great -- we carried identification guides with us, and had a blast making a list of all the things we found. We then used that list to make a few bingo sheets and scavenger hunts for the Loop Trail featuring original artwork from the kids. Some of the kids also took pictures for a DIY survival kit guide that parents can make with their kids to learn some basics of the 10 essentials.

To culminate these projects, the students and I shared one final day together where we munched on donuts and thought of all the great projects we could do the following year. I thoroughly enjoyed executing this project with the Youth Ambassador Program, Mrs. Anderton, and her class, and hope the students made some lasting memories on their trips.