V. Reflection

EHHS sophomore Julie Tamanini, “By the time the dams are removed, all of us currently involved in the Elwha project will have graduated from Eagle Harbor High School. In the next few decades after the dam removal, the salmon will struggle to return to the Elwha, and it will be up to a new generation of students to inherit the restoration project and help heal the river. We don’t know if the salmon will ever make a full comeback. We don’t know what the effects will be if and when they do. We don’t know what the reverberations of the project will be. But what we do know is that we have changed because of our involvement.

After two years, it is clear that even in a school that supports project-based learning and encourages students to become involved in planning their public education experiences, formal classes need structure for most students to thrive. We had tried a zero-period class one day a week for one semester with unsuccessful results. There wasn’t enough structure to hold it together and the time between the short class meetings was too long. Positive results didn’t come until the partnership with BITV to create a film of the Elwha activities fell into our laps, and we were able to creatively pair it with an already established class. This arrangement worked wonderfully well for most of our students. Unfortunately, it didn’t work well for the handful of students who were either uninterested in a film class or were unable to enroll in the class because of scheduling conflicts with other classes they needed to take. As the film took more and more of our focus, we knew these students felt less and less a part of the group. We arranged for them to complete individual mini-contracts on related topics of their own choosing, but there was no escaping that they were missing the cohesion and bonding of the film class.

For the film students, though, the experience seems to have enriched their lives in a number of ways. Just as we had suspected, the skills they had to hone in order to create the film caused them to reflect about their personal interests in this project. What became evident was that the film wasn’t simply documenting their activities on the Elwha or their increasing appreciation and respect for the involvement of the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe in river renewal activities. Instead, it became a statement of their philosophy about the need for change. “Shifting Currents,” the title chosen for their film, represents not only the shifts in the river as the dams are removed but also a shift in a generational attitude toward environmental issues. This generation is saying that they will take on the environmental issues created by previous generations. The Elwha River Reclamation Project is just one of many worldwide projects that has garnered the attention of this “green” generation.

Additional reflections shared by students include, “The reason I did this project is because I want my children’s grandchildren to see what I did to make a difference in the dam removal….Also I want to see the …tribes be able to have their old ways to fish in the river. This will allow nature to take its course after the dams have been removed.” One senior wrote, “My favorite part of the project was getting to spend a week in the field rather than in the classroom.” Another student reflected, “This project gave me some new insights into how I work best….I enjoyed spending time in the mountains learning about the natural environment and I am most proud of my new understanding[s]…and how I can help correct some of the problems we have.

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