COHO SALMON & STEELHEAD TROUT
Wilderness Way has activities for every grade level that involves math,
science, art, and poetry. WW recently supplemented Montessori’s Native
American studies and will provide a Steelhead-in-the-Classroom program in
the spring. Students will observe, monitor and keep an elementary journal.
Middle School will have a similar program at a significantly more advanced
science level, including use of a video-flex. They will also create a film
documentary beginning with the egg pick-up at the hatchery. We have winter
field trips to the Larsen Preserve, San Geronimo Creek, and Taylor Park to
observe coho salmon spawning and sometimes sight a stray chum or chinook.
We use the San Geronimo Valley watershed model to better understand our
interrelationship with our environment.
Wilderness Way has activities for grade levels K - 8. These are hands on
projects that help children understand how Native people lived and what we
can learn today from the harmonious way they coexisted with nature. Our plan
is to create a village model, similar to those at Kule Loklo and
Chawsee and then build a real model village in or near the Larsen Preserve
where skills, games, dances, and stories can be taught and enjoyed.
SECRET SALMON SITES ELECTIVE
Students used their knowledge about coho salmon (including chinook and
chum), steelhead trout and Valley and marine sanctuary watersheds from class
lectures, activities, projects and field trips to seek out the best and
little known salmon sites in the tributaries of the Valley’s watershed
leading to San Geronimo Creek. This creek runs the length of the five mile
long San Geronimo Valley. It is 20 miles from the mouth of Tomales Bay and
the National Sanctuaries. Students worked in teams of two and each team had
a camcorder. Some students concentrated on marine life while others
documented wildlife and the riparian habitat. The student’s film was shown
to all Middle School classes and at Open House. It was entered in the Marin
County Fair film competition.
NATIVE AMERICAN FLUTE ELECTIVE
Wilderness Way staff’s consistent use of the
Native American flute on field trips, calling the wild coho salmon back to
their home stream in the fall and sending them on a safe journey in the
spring has resulted in a popular elective class for Middle School students
with an exciting change. Each child will sand, finish, personalize and
assemble their own flute from "pre-tuned flute kits." These Stellar Flutes
"kits" produce quality flutes that professionals use in concerts today! The
original American instrument, from trees and reeds, influenced by the wind,
played by humans, capture melodious sounds that call us back to nature. The
flute instructors will guide the students to honor the flute, through
history, story telling, art, and field trips. Each flute has its own song,
as each student has their own song. The students will learn how to
creatively express their personal song with their hand crafted cedar flute
and play -- the Wilderness Way!. Classes are held on the land for
Flute instructors Tina and Paul Berensmeier
NEW! ENVIRONMENTAL LIVING PROGRAM
Wilderness Way partnered with Tomales Bay State Park and participated in the
well known Environmental Living Program inspired and developed by retired
ranger Carlos Porrata. It can be experienced only by entering a lottery and
participating in a two day teacher training workshop in the fall where
teachers and volunteers are provided with the tools to teach children about
Native American traditional culture. WW brought many Native American
artifacts and described their use at the workshop. WW taught these skills
to the Montessori 4th/5th graders and then, in the spring, simulated that
life in a two day overnight experience on Indian Beach at the park.
NATIVE WILDLIFE AND PLANTS
Wilderness Way uses the Marietta Larsen Memorial Preserve as a dynamic
out-door lab. We identify and study plants, birds, fish, and animals. We
teach children how to use their eyes and ears differently than they do in
the classroom. Our outdoor studies become science and frequently art and
poetry projects. We teach survival techniques.
MARIETTA LARSEN MEMORIAL PRESERVE
Wilderness Way continues to restore and maintain the Preserve’s trails,
creeks, riparian habitat and regularly cut back poison oak. We have built a
tracking box in a trail which allows the children to make plaster casts and
learn to read the story the wildlife tracks tell. WW is creating a Field
Guide for the Preserve, collecting work done by teachers and environmental
groups, and initiating the studies needed to create a Guide that will
include information about native plants and their uses, birds, salmon and
steelhead trout and other wildlife. Grant funds from NOAA has allowed
Wilderness Way to do additional work with Middle School math students to
measure speed and volume of Larsen Creek and interpreting and making
predictions from the results.
Wilderness Way has made several films documenting environmental projects in
the classroom and in the community. Students not only assist but are
creating their own environmental films. As part of their Community Out
Reach program, Wilderness Way is also documenting Valley elders telling
their stories of living in the Valley.
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Wilderness Way sponsors Community Service projects with Lagunitas Middle
School students and Sir Francis Drake High School students that includes
plant care and habitat restoration, creek cleanup, Salmon crossing sign
cleanup and repair, releasing Chinook at the Romberg Center and assisting a
the Salmon Run, a benefit for Wilderness Way programs. Students also help
with preparing supplies for craft projects, cleaning incubators, folding
instruction sheets, etc.
Wilderness Way has an exceptional library and collection of native artifacts
it uses in its instructional programs.
NOAA GRANT UPDATE
School Programs and Community Out Reach
Wilderness Way recently received third year grant funding for the 2008-09
school year from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) to
continue existing salmonid and watershed programs and projects in the
Lagunitas School District, create a comprehensive K-8 program, expand
partnerships to benefit school and community and provide staff development
opportunities as well as supplies and equipment.
LAGUNITAS SCHOOL DISTRICT PROGRAMS
Wilderness Way has been teaching about coho salmon, steelhead trout and the
Valley’s watershed in the Lagunitas School District since 1999. Every year
Wishing Poles are made to Call Back the Salmon -- and sure enough the salmon
come back year after year.
Wilderness Way received third year funding from NOAA to continue the program
described in the 2006-07 year below.
Wilderness Way received second year funding from NOAA to continue the
program described in the 2006-07 year below.
This school year, due to the generosity of a grant from NOAA, WW was not
only able to continue its existing program of science, art and literary
activities, outdoor adventures, and field trips but, in cooperation with
school district teachers, completed a fall program in the Montessori
and Waldorf programs -- the first steps toward creating an articulated
curriculum about salmonids and the Valley watershed at each grade level from
K to 8th grade.
Students walked Larsen Creek in the Preserve in September while it was dry
and got a pretend ‘fish feel” of how water impacts the creek and riparian
areas. Together we walked through the tunnel that merges with San Geronimo
Creek and imagined being a salmon struggling to get up a terribly designed
culvert to get back to the site where it was born. We made discoveries about
native plants (Do you know why poison oak is called “The Love Bush?) and
native birds and spotted a few nonresidents in this special forest.
We watched the extraordinary WW film Crouching Heron, Jumping Salmon that
gave the students the opportunity to see local salmon jumping the stepped
pools at the Inkwells; the display of male and female behavior and their
last acts in the spawning process. We took this information and utilized it
in appropriate grade level activities. Kindergartners, learned to use their
eyes and ears differently in the forest and next to the creek. First graders
practice stalking skills and imitated birds. Second graders studied the
tracking box and learned to tell the stories tracks tell and identify what
animals come and when and why. Third graders made a unique accordion book of
he salmon life cycle and learned not only about where salmon are born but
where they live the greatest part of their life before returning home to
spawn and die. All students got to see the watershed
model of the San Geronimo Valley and find where they lived but it was the
5th graders who ran the Thorner ridge and experienced the watershed by
running the ridge and searching and finding the headwaters of Larsen Creek.
(This will give readers a sense of the fall program)
And while the primary grades in Montessori and Waldorf were having these
experiences WW was teaching a Middle School Elective - Secret Salmon Sites.
WW divided the class in teams - each with a camcorder. Following basic
instruction they were given the assignment to film different aspects of the
life and habitat of a wild coho salmon. The raw footage is unique --
humorous, serious, educational -- and very diverse. The edited film will be shown to the Middle School student
body and at Open House.
OUT REACH 2008-09
SINGING SALMON FLUTE CIRCLE
This Circle is a gathering of parents and adults interested in Native
American flute. It grew out of the interest and popularity of Paul's native
American Flute elective in Middle School. Come and play creatively in a
space adorned by local art work. We will support one another through solo,
duet and group work. No prior experience is necessary. Open to all --
listeners, beginners and advanced. Bring a flute and friend. No flute? No
problem. We have extras. Paul has 15 years flute experience He and Tina
studied with world renowned flautist R. Carlos Nakai. Class is ongoing and
held the first and third Monday each month from 7 - 9 pm in the Valley Room
at the Community Center. Fee: $10 donation appreciated at the door. For
more information contact Paul or Tina at 415-488-1964.
CHINOOK FISH RELEASES
Once again, Wilderness Way provided an exhibit, activities and ceremony for
children and adults in preparation for the release of 10,000 chinook salmon
into Sausalito Bay near the Romberg Center in cooperation with the Tyee
Foundation. Two months later over 1,000 chinook fingerlings were released
into Richardson Bay in cooperation with the Tiburon Salmon Institute, Casa
Grande High School, Girl Scouts and Trout Unlimited.
THE GREEN NOTE FESTIVAL
San Geronimo Valley Community Center
This fun-filled outdoor festival was a benefit for the San Geronimo Valley
Community Center and featured a showcase of "eco-music", diverse acts, a
recycled art show, organic, local food and engaging workshops. Prior to the
opening of the Festival a ribbon cutting ceremony for the solar panels that
will serve the school was held. Paul played his flute honoring this
critical and healthy connection with the environment to address energy
During the Festival Paul performed selections on the Native American flute
from his forthcoming CD "Valley Songs" inspired by his runs and hikes in the
San Geronimo Valley. Berensmeier teaches flute to children at Lagunitas
School and is well-respected for his skills and unique teaching style. He
had a Wilderness Way booth giving children and parents a mini-lesson
on flute playing.
Paul recently passed the world renowned flute player R. Carlos Nakai¹s
stringent ability test, on the first try, and was elevated to Teacher's
Assistant at Nakai's world famous Renaissance of the Native American Flute
Retreat 2008. Paul joined others in a large outdoor concert with the
celebrated flute master. He has had performances at the Community Center
and elsewhere and also plays the silver flute with the San Mateo-based, 28
member, Magic Flutes Choir. Berensmeier is a founder of Wilderness Way, a
Valley based environmental education organization.
OUT REACH 2007-08
Marin County Fair - Displayed student projects in the Aquatics Themes
Pavilion. WW’s film Crouching Heron, - Jumping Salmon was reedited,
narrated and selected for viewing at the Ocean and Bay Film Festival at the
Chinook Kiss - WW provided an exhibit, activities and ceremony for children
and adults to participate in the release of 10,000 chinook salmon into
Richardson Bay. They joined other partners which included Tiburon Salmon
Institute, Casa Grande High School, Girl Scouts, Trout Unlimited.
Salmon Run - A 100 yard dash and 5K for all ages was held under the redwoods
along Lagunitas Creek, home to wild coho salmon, in Samuel P. Taylor Park.
An organic pancake breakfast and hand made awards were provided with
proceeds to benefit WW programs.
Second Annual Environmental Art Show - WW joined partners San Geronimo
Valley Community Center, Valley Artists Advisory Committee and Steward of
the Mighty Oak to honor significant oaks of the San Geronimo Valley and
beyond, with an exhibition, performance and educational presentation by 37
artists, musicians, poets, educators and naturalists
OUT REACH 2006-07
First Annual Environmental Art Show - WW honored 13 San Geronimo Valley
artists who make their living by doing art work inspired by the Valley
environment. the Art Show was the center piece of the first staff
development session. Students took tours of the show with a WW docent.
Film Festival - Documentaries of interviews of two elders telling about
their life in the Valley as well as a film of a life long resident
describing his environmental adventures over the years.
Park St. Bridge - WW coordinated with the County of Marin and helped
students and adults from the community install native plants at the new
arched culvert in Woodacre. This project was documented in the WW film,
“Park St. Bridge.”
YouthGive - WW joined other select non-profits that were featured in the
Inaugural Edition of YouthGive's Guide to Giving in Marin..
Cub Scouts - Provided Cub Pack #1 from Mill Valley with a salmonid program
that included, a film, Calling Back the Salmon with wishing poles, visiting
the Inkwells , visiting the fish ladder at Roys Pools and the new fish
friendly culvert at Woodacre and finishing with a tour to see spawning
salmon in Lagunitas Creek.
Wishing Poles at the Inkwells - Placed 100 wishing poles made by students of
the Lagunitas School District to Call Back the Salmon. Also available on
site was a brochure with instructions as to how to make a wishing pole and
information about wild coho salmon.
Salmon Tours at Lagunitas Creek near the Inkwells - Although the rains were
few and far between the staff of WW spent four days each week during
December and early January giving docent tours to locals and tourists alike
along the trail between the Inkwells and the Peters Dam spillway.
County of Marin Kid’s Day at the annual 4th of July County Fair. Project:
WW provided Native American Indian games, pump drills and craft supplies to
create shell/bead necklaces. Displayed watershed model of the San Geronimo
Valley and film documentary of Lagunitas School students building the model.
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In 2006 the Montessori PTA requested participation in the WW program.
Instructors followed up with requests for experiences as part of their
Native American studies program in the fall and the
Steelhead-in-the-Classroom program in the spring.
• All four classes visited the WW center and learned native American
games, the use of the pump drill, and created a bead necklace. (See above).
5th graders used the extensive WW library to study specific California
• 3/4th graders participated in the Steelhead-in-the-Classroom program for
9 weeks. Each child made aquarium observations and created a “scientific”
journal to record their notes and sketches. They also did scientific
drawings and supplemented their Journal with creative drawings of steelhead.
The culmination of the program was returning the fry to their natal stream
-- a field trip to Salmon Creek in Sonoma County. Each child received an
award certificate for their participation.
MIDDLE SCHOOL PROGRAM
• For the 5th year both 7th grade classes participated in the advanced level
of the unique Steelhead-in-the-Classroom program. Their exceptional
“scientific” journals emphasized anatomy and physiology. A student film crew
documented and participated in editing the film which included egg pickup,
classroom lectures and journal studies, fry release at Salmon Creek, an art
mobile project and displays at the Middle School Open House. A student music
crew created and played the music for the sound track.
• 6th graders began the documentation and study of the Woodacre Creek day
lighting project to be implemented in cooperation with the County of Marin
during the summer and fall. They are in process of documenting the “before”
film shoot of the area and developing wording for a sign for this historic
project. (See grants below).
• WW worked with the 7th grade teacher to provide art mobiles and the
student film documentary as part of the Open House exhibit.
• Community Service: 8th graders cleaned and repaired salmon crossing
signs in Taylor State Park that had been made by students in 2003.
• Elective: Secret Salmon Sites. This popular elective took students to
unique areas throughout the Valley.
OPEN CLASSROOM PROGRAM
The instructors in the 3/4 and 5/6th grades Open Classroom program requested
activities and experiences related to Native American studies . These
• Native games: Pin and hoop (5 levels); pin and ring; staves, dice and
acorn tops. Most children became quite skilled. Some made a few games at
school or at home.
• Pump drill: Each child learned how to use the native pump drill and
learned to drill holes in wood and shells to create other objects.
• Cordage: Each child learned how to make two ply cordage. They created
cordage of their shell/clay bead necklace. 5th and 6th graders make 2 to 8
ply cordage charts.
• Tracking: Children went to the Larsen Preserve to clean and repair the
tracking box. This was used to observe and identify wildlife tracks and
learn the stories tracks tell.
• Native Plants: We collected and identified native plants from the San
Geronimo Valley and learned the Miwok name and the use of the plant by
native people. We put the plant specimens in old shoes, labeled them and
created a Native Shoe Garden.
• Sweat Lodge: Children made scale models (2) of a native sweat lodge. WW
invited a native elder to direct us in building a full-size native sweat in
the traditional way which was used by 5/6th graders and the 40 children
visiting from France.
• Children did drawings of the games, pump drills and sweat lodge which
were included in a book given to the French children.
• WW participated in the Community Center sponsored LSD Art Show with
drawings, mobiles, salmon crossing signs, booklets and fish journal.
• WW had a booth in the BAEER fair and was invited to do a teacher’s
workshop on building a watershed model. 17 teachers attended.
• WW was commissioned to build Native American games to be used for display
at the Grace Hudson museum in Ukiah.
• WW is collaborating with the CC garden/nutrition instructor on planning
future projects of mutual interest and of benefit to the school children and
• WW is seeking ways to reach the broader Valley community with the WW
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Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. William Butler Yeats