Letters to Obama- Recognize the Duwamish Tribe!


4th, 5th, and 6th grade have been flexing their civic duty muscles here this week with some very powerful letters to president Obama concerning the Duwamish Tribe. When I suggested that maybe we write some letters to advocate the tribe being federally recognized, students were very enthusiastic. If the tribe was recognized on a federal level, they could get the land, fishing, healthcare, and education rights that they deserve- and were promised! They signed the Point Elliot treaty in 1855 guaranteeing them rights they never received. They were eventually reimbursed $1.56 for all their land and hardships.


This activity has not been without it’s challenges. This might be a smaller microcosm of the challenges in education in general. Is it our job as teachers to make kids care about something? Should we be inspiring kids to care? Do we take our own feelings about what we care about and share them with kids and hope that they care? We all know that it is a challenge to care. I guess I feel that it is a necessity to care. So my focus with this letter is to take the experience of two weeks of studying Duwamish history and culture (through the Burke Museum boxes) and bring it into the present. The story of the Duwamish is a story that is continuing now! I felt that they needed our help and the actions of a few hundred students may actually have an impact.


Plus at least students get to learn the lost art of letter writing! They take facts they have learned and share them with our President. This is an inadvertent assessment of what students have learned the last few weeks too. It’s writing, reading, Native History, Washington State History, civic action, and social justice. A truly cross curricular activity that I hope reached the kids (and eventually the government!) on some level.


These letters have been thoughtful, inspiring, and absolutely amazing. Stay tuned for updates! These are just the rough drafts!

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A kindergarten salmon’s journey!

It was a delightfully sunny day and it was a perfect time for our annual kindergarten salmon obstacle course! We used hoops & bowling pins to simulate the rocks and logs on a salmons journey. We also had students with scarves pretending to be bears and eagles swiping at salmon. Other students threw foam balls of trash in the streams of the swimming salmon. We even had some fisher-folks with foam sticks tryin’ to fry up the salmon. These kind of interactive & kinetic activities really get kids involved and excited. Who wants to talk about salmon when they can be salmon! Our salmon will have a tough “road” ahead and this activity reinforces that!

If you haven’t yet seen the baby Orca salmon, they are in the hallway near the office!

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The Salmon Game

1st graders constructed these fabulous salmon games that highlight the trials and tribulations salmon face in the wild.


There are bears, eagles, pollution, oil spills, and of course- humans! There are also helpful factors for salmon such as water flow, fish ladders, insects & food, and rocks & logs to hide under and stay safe. Bad factors would make a player go back spaces, with positive factors helping players advance.DSC_1445

They absolutely loved creating and playing this game. It was fun, artistic, scientific, and engaging. A teacher remarked to me how how engaged the students were as they played eachother’s games. They got to take them home and hopefully school their parents in the art of being salmon.

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The mighty Orca salmon return

This is our 8th year in a row raising salmon eggs at Orca. We receive the eggs from the Issaquah salmon hatchery and grow them into baby parr that we then release in Seward Park around Earth Day. This is always one of  the highlights of the year. Visit the salmon in the hallway!


We have started our annual kindergarten salmon life cycle comic book in the downstairs hallway. They have made “egg” and “alevin” parts of the cycle so far. Stay tuned for more!


This is our fabulous intern Amy from the UW Pipeline program. We have been hosting students from the UW for many years and it’s always a pleasure (and massive help!) to have these students here helping out. Thanks Amy!


Students have really enjoyed visiting the salmon tank. While it is a challenge to have that many students see them in a small space, it’s so great to be able to point out the unique characteristics of the salmon’s growth cycle- in person.


A lil’ hype goes a long way in making learning exciting! (and corny, no doubt). May the Fish be with you!!


1st graders made salmon life cycle hangars that were so much fun to make. It took a lot of cutting, arranging, finagling, and more, but they came out pretty cool. Thanks Laura Grow for all the help on this project.




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Duwamish Native Studies

The new year has started off with a cultural bang as we explore the Duwamish people. They are the tribe native to the Seattle area and famously have not been recognized for their stolen land and/or the atrocities perpetuated upon them. It seems important for those of us who live on this land to know about their history & culture.


The Burke Museum has some amazing boxes that they lend to schools to help explore native culture through tools, artifacts, and curriculum.


These kits show so much about the artistry and ingenuity of native peoples in this area. Students really enjoyed exploring them as they drew and wrote in their Duwamish Passports that they created. Getting to touch and explore the items in the box really creates an experience that is fun and educational.


A little known fact is that the Duwamish people have still not been federally recognized as a tribe, which doe snot allow them certain rights regarding land ownership, services, and fishing rights. Students were displeased to learn that the Duwamish people were awarded $1.56 for their land and hardship. This land was 25,000+ acres across Seattle that they held title too, yet was forcefully removed from them.

We listened to this fabulous Pacific Northwest music as we explored. Highly recommended.

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Winter Solstice Celebrations


We have been celebrating the winter solstice around here with some artistic and delicious approaches. It’s a time to celebrate that which we are thankful for in the darkest time of the year.


We made solstice haikus, art cards (w/ fancy envelopes to mail to family & friends), and snowflakes. We had kale chips that I baked at home, fennel (from the garden) salt popcorn, fresh beets, and bread from Columbia City Bakery to feast on.


Have you ever really studied up on the Winter solstice? It’s a celebration that has occurred for thousands of years and even predates most major worldwide religions.


I learned a lot from the Wikipedia page that talks about it’s history. The science behind what happens to make this day the shortest of the year was something I enjoyed sharing and exploring with the kids also.


Many may be surprised that EVERY LAST BEET that I chopped up from the garden was devoured with a zombie like passion (their faces beet-bloody).


Many classes got to check out our cool carniverous plant garden w/ little mini tours by yours truly.

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Fried Green Tomatoes & Southern Blues!!!


In our continued effort to extract EVERY EDIBLE BIT O’ GOODNESS out of the garden, we were cheffin’ up fried green tomatoes in the garden. First thing we did was pick the last bit of green tomatoes off the plants in the playground area.


We then brought them down and put a fabulous batter on them of brown rice flour, coconut milk, salt, and corn meal (vegan & gluten free!). The corn meal goes on last and adds a nice bit o’ crunch.


After that we wrote the recipe on green tomato construction paper cutouts and ate them up!


They were a big hit! Maybe 75% of students liked them (which is low for us, but hey- we tried eating a lesser known recipe of a semi-exotic food!)…


We also listened to a really cool mix of southern delta blues and talked about the origin of this recipe- the Southern US! The music helps make this a true cultural experience. Tune it in and turn it up…

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