Steamboat Neighbors Pull for Prairies

Camas blooming on the prairie (photo: Stephanie Bishop)

Camas blooming on the prairie
(photo credit: Stephanie Bishop)
Click for a larger image

There are two magnificent oak trees on the corner of Steamboat Island Road and Sexton Drive. As a Griffin parent, I have driven by those oaks hundreds of times on the way to school, marveling at the dense mats of moss and ferns growing on strong limbs and the remnant prairie plants growing beneath. Late last winter, I stopped. I walked under the oaks and imagined how this native prairie habitat would look with rivers of camas running through it like long ago. The picture of a restored prairie in our backyard was too pretty to let go of, and is what prompted me to start doing some digging.

It turns out this small parcel is a part of Schneider’s Prairie and owned by the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT). WSDOT also happens to be very supportive of protecting the oaks and restoring the prairie. Native prairies like this used to cover large sections of Thurston County, though mostly down south near the Glacial Heritage Preserve and Mima Mounds where some are still present. Today only about 3% of this habitat still exists. Scotch broom and sun-loving Douglas fir thrive in these open areas and conversion to forest can happen quickly without the traditional land management practice of controlled burns. Camas, that beautiful blue flower growing in pockets around the Steamboat/101 interchange, is a culturally important “First Food” cultivated by indigenous people of the area. Burning prairies not only increases this food source, it improves soil conditions to support myriad pollinators and endemic species. According to local historian Steve Lundin, Schneider’s Prairie was probably last burned more than 200 years ago.

Volunteers remove invasive species (photo credit: Joanne Schuett-Hames)

Volunteers remove invasive species
(photo credit: Joanne Schuett-Hames)

Presenting the idea of prairie restoration to the Steamboat community was like setting a spark in a dry field.  A single email to members of the Steamboat Conservation Partnership (SCP) this spring resulted in an immediate site visit and two work parties. Outfitted with gloves, chain saws, weed wrenches and clippers, SCP volunteers and other friends and neighbors removed the encroaching Douglas fir seedlings, cut down non-native black locust trees, pulled scotch broom and whacked back 10’ high Himalayan blackberry! After reaching out to Griffin School, seventy-five 4th graders helped out this May by removing brush from the prairie.  They also learned about traditional camas harvest from Shawna Zierdt (Griffin parent, Native Plant Specialist and member of the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians) who demonstrated digging techniques and showed students how the relationship between Native people and the prairies is deep and present.

Griffin students visit the prairie (photo credit: Shawna Zierdt)

Griffin students visit the prairie
(photo credit: Shawna Zierdt)

This project has had a tremendous jump start, thanks to the outpouring of interest and support from the Steamboat community. I wish I could say that the prairie has been fully restored, but there is still work to be done. Invasive plants will continue to move in and will need to be removed manually unless the property is burned, which is an idea for the future. In the meantime, 1,000 camas bulbs are on order and will be planted this fall, most of which are expected to bloom the following spring. Some of the invasive plants will be covered with black geotextile material to kill the plants and roots, while others will be hand cut and pulled to keep them under control.

The progress that has been made at this site in just a few short months is impressive. Special thanks goes out to SCP members and volunteers Jack Sisco, Paul Meury, Bonnie Blessing-Earle, Mark Fischer, Jim Leonard, Steve Lundin, Skip McGinty, Peter Reid, Elizabeth Roderick, and Joanne and Dave Schuett-Hames for sharing knowledge of this site, offering suggestions on how to proceed, and most of all showing up at work parties ready to work! We are also grateful to AmeriCorps member Hanna Jones, the US Fish and Wildlife’s Connecting People with Nature program, WSDOT, Griffin School, and the Washington Native Plant Society for their support and interest in this project. We welcome new ideas and volunteers to this project.  Feel free to contact Thurston Conservation District staff member Stephanie Bishop at sbishop@thurstoncd.com to learn more about the project and/or how you can get involved.

By Stephanie Bishop, Thurston Conservation District

Feline Friends Holiday Bazaar and Griffin Holiday Market, Saturday, December 3

2016ff-bazaar-flyer1

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This Saturday sees the return of two holiday events to the Griffin/Steamboat Peninsula area. One is the Feline Friends Cat Adoption Day, Santa, and Holiday Bazaar. The other is the Griffin Holiday Market. Between these two events, you’re bound to find a lot of goodies you want for this season’s gift-giving.

Santa will be available at the Feline Friends Holiday Bazaar to have photos taken with your pets (on a leash only) or children.

Stop by to visit with friends and neighbors and to shop for those extra special gifts made by local artisans and have some Hot Apple Cider. Check out their Raffle and Bake Sale with lots of cookies.

Of course, the Feline Friends Cat House will be open with cats hoping to find a loving forever home before the New Year.

Feline Friends Cat Adoption Day, Santa, and Holiday Bazaar
Saturday, December 3
10 AM to 3 PM
Griffin Fire Department Headquarters
3707 Steamboat Island Loop NW, Olympia

On the same day, the Griffin School invites you to come peruse their Griffin Holiday Market. More 30 vendors are featured, with the focus on vendors selling homemade items. There will be a great variety at this event, which is a fundraiser to support the Griffin Middle School band’s Disney trip in April.

There will also be a bake sale, silent auction, and performances by individual band students.

Griffin Holiday Market
Saturday, December 3
10 AM to 3 PM
Griffin School Gymnasium
6530 33rd Ave NW, Olympia

We hope to see you shopping locally at both these holiday events, this Saturday.

Join the Griffin School District Board to Discuss “Planning the 2010-11 Budget”

Come join Griffin School staff, students, parents and community members in charting budget direction for the 2010-11 school year while planning for future years as well. Mr. Steve Bayer will facilitate a two-hour “Community Café” meeting.

Saturday, March 20, 2010
Breakfast at 8:30 a.m. with RSVP
Griffin School Library, 6530 33rd avenue NW, Olympia WA 98502

The idea behind a “café”style meeting will be to gather important input and encourage dialogue that will assist the Griffin School Board and staff in planning for future budget and programs needs to serve Griffin students. Breakfast will be served at 8:30 a.m. for those who RSVP by Wednesday, March 17.

Please accept this invitation — your input and participation will help create a better future for our children and community. RSVP by calling 360-866-4918 or send an email to kanderson@griffin.k12.wa.us

The Griffin School District is online at http://www.griffin.k12.wa.us/

Griffin School District Participating in “Food to Flowers Lunchroom Recycling”

On February 1, 2010, the Griffin School District kicked off their participation in Thurston County’s Food to Flowers program. Thurston County staff weighed all of the trash and all of the organics and other recyclables generated by the students in the lunchroom for the first 5 days of the program from February 1 to February 5, 2010.

The results are impressive. Students are doing a great job separating out food, soiled paper and other recyclables to be made into compost and other valuable products. As a result of their efforts, about 90% of what used to be thrown in the trash in the lunchroom is now being composted or recycled. For a full school year, that’s about 12 tons of food and soiled paper and about 720 pounds of recyclables that are no longer being sent to the landfill. A graph illustrating this data is included below.

All of this and the program is just getting started. Kitchen staff are already separating out their organic kitchen scraps for composting and a bin for compostable material has been set up in the staff break room. The next steps in the program include collecting paper towels from the bathrooms and expanding the collection of recyclables in the classroom.

For more information on the Food to Flowers program, contact Peter Guttchen at (360) 709-3013, guttchp@co.thurston.wa.us, http://www.thurstonsolidwaste.org/

Griffin School Levy Request Goes to Voters; Rate Among Lowest in County

The Griffin School District will send a Maintenance and Operations Replacement Levy to voters this February 9, 2010. While the levy, described in a flyer distributed by the school district, will produce one of the lowest levy rates among districts seeking voter approval that day, the amount collected represents the highest percentage of those district operating budgets. Our local school district has an excellent track record in the judicious use of property owner’s dollars and I am writing here to encourage my fellow voters to approve the levy.

As reported recently in The Olympian, expected rates for this levy are $1.92 per $1,000 in assessed value in 2011 and $2.11 per $1,000 in assessed value in 2012. The rate is considerably lower than levies asked from North Thurston, Tumwater, Rainier, and Rochester Tenino districts. In 2009, Griffin’s levy collection rate placed it second lowest in school districts county-wide. However, The Olympian is reporting money from all levies represents nearly 24% of the District’s operating budget.

47% of the money collected will go to pay for educational programs and district-wide services including maintaining smaller classes, playground supervision and special education; 42% pays to send our high schoolers to other districts, mainly the Olympia School District; and 11% will go to transportation.

This levy is not a new tax. It replaces or renews the existing maintenance and operations levy, which expires at the end of the 2010 calendar year.

The Olympian reports that “Local districts have made millions of dollars in cuts in the past few years because of cuts in state funding.” This levy will provide important money to our local top-performing school district. Ballots are coming in the mail soon. Once you learn more about this levy request, I think you’ll join me in voting in favor.

Click here to read a copy of the Griffin School District’s flyer describing the 2010 Maintenance and Operations Replacement Levy.

– MARK MESSINGER

Health & Safety Fair This Saturday

Sponsored by Griffin PTO, Griffin’s Health Advisory & Safe Schools/Caring Climate Committees, a Health and Safety Fair will be held this Saturday at Griffin School.

Saturday, November 21, 2009
10:00 a.m. to Noon

It’s fun and free! Enjoy interactive activities, games, contests and more! The Health & Safety Fair is an event to increase health & safety awareness by providing health screenings, activities, and materials for students and community members.

Get Your Flu Shot ($25.00)

The West Side Safeway Pharmacy is offering flu shots again for a fraction of the cost! Bring your medical card and you may be able to get your flu shot for free! Your insurance can also be billed. You must be 11 years old or older! Also, H1N1 shots will be offered if vaccinations are available at this time.

Meet Smokey Bear!

Want to meet Smokey Bear & pledge to do your part to prevent wildfires? Try on “Bunker Gear” & see what its like to feel like a real fire fighter. Take the smoke house challenge and learn how to create a safety plan for your family. Visit the Griffin Fire Dept. Booth at this year’s fair.

Race Wacky Trikes!

Monitor your resting heart rate and your active heart rate as you race competitors on “Wacky Trikes” through an inflatable race track! This is great exercise and lots of fun for kids and adults too!

Visit “Germ City”

Think your hands are clean? Think again! Visit Germ City again at this year’s fair and see just how clean your hands really are. Germ City is walk through booth provided by Thurston County Health Department!

Take Advantage of “Iris Recognition Technology”

Have a high resolution digital photograph of your child’s eye (iris) taken for identity purposes and get a one of a kind I.D. Card provided by the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office!

Griffin Transportation Department

Learn how Griffin School District keeps your students safe while they are transported to and from school. Meet some of our bus drivers, and watch a cool bus safety video!

Advanced Medical Supplies

Did you know that Griffin School currently has two defibrillators? Do you know what a defibrillator is? Staff members from Advanced Medical Supplies will be on hand to help you learn the basics of CPR, as well as how to recognize and use a defibrillator.

Help Stop Crime with Crime Stoppers!

Learn how you can help stop crime by visiting the Crime Stoppers booth at this year’s fair. Lacey, Olympia, and Tumwater Police Departments along with Thurston County Sheriff’s Office will make you an honorary Crime Stopper when you visit their booth!

Learn How Loud too Loud is . . .

Watch as your hearing is being tested with Kelley Powers, M.A. Clinical Audiologist from ENT and Associates! She will help you find out what ‘hair cells,” “tinnitus” and “turn it to the left” have in common. See the smallest bones in your body and learn how your hearing works.

Simon Says . . . Dance, Dance, Dance Revolution!

Participate in a Simon Says style music game (Dance, Dance Revolution). Come see if you have rhythm then step onto the stage and prove it! You’ll love dancing to the rhythm as you get your excise!

Techniques for Helping Kids Manage Stress

The Family Support Center will offer stress management techniques, information and activities for Griffin Kids. Students will get to decorate cards with information they learn hands-on.

Quake Ready Earthquake Kits

Do you have the supplies you need in the event of and earthquake? Don’t have time to prepare? Quake Ready Kits does it for you. Purchase car kits, home kits, large or small!

Play PTO BINGO, & Enter to win DOOR PRIZES (Sponsored by the PTO)!

WASL Scores: Significant Improvement for Griffin, but Capital Lags District

The WASL (Washington Assessment of Student Learning) scores and trend analysis are now available on the web site of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. While a complete analysis of the scores is beyond the scope of this article, when compared to last years’ showing, Griffin showed significant – in some cases very significant – improvement in most grade levels and subjects tested. And, the performance of Griffin students generally place them in scores higher than other districts in the State. The story at Capital High, on the other hand, is of performance which has taken a downward trend, this last year, and continues to place Capital’s overall scores below the numbers for all high schools in the Olympia School District.

Click here for the Griffin School District’s summary page.

Click here for the page from which you can navigate to trending information for specific grade levels at Griffin.

Click here for the Capital High summary page.

Click here for Capital High’s trending information.

At Griffin, students in grades 3 through 8 sit for the WASL in two or three subject areas. Students in Grades 3 and 6 are tested in reading and match. Students in grades 4 and 7 are tested in reading, writing and math. Grades 5 and 8 are tested in reading, math and science. This last year, scores in most grades and subjects reversed the dip they had taken in the 2007-2008 school year.

Fairly consistently, students at Griffin are achieving scores above the average throughout the State.

The Griffin School District is justified in being proud of its performance in this last years WASL testing. After a dip in the prior year’s test scores, the 2008-2009 scores generally bounced back, some by quite a bit.

At Capital, 10th Grade students sit for the WASL in four subject areas: reading, writing, math and science. After showing improvement in writing, science and math over the last few years, performance in last year’s WASL was off slightly. After reaching its peak, in 2005-06, Capital’s score in the reading WASL continued to decline in 2008-09. In all four subject areas, Capital lags the average for Olympia School District 10th graders.

Randy Dorn, the new Superintendent of Public Instruction, was voted into office largely on his campaign promises to reform WASL. WASL has since been replaced by the grades 3-8 Measurements of Student Progress (MSP) and the High School Proficiency Exam (HSPE).