Organization Mission and Background: The mission of the San Juan Nature Institute (SJNI) is ‘to increase understanding and appreciation of the unique natural history of the San Juan Archipelago through educational programs that promote active learning and stewardship.” The Institute is a politically neutral, private, non-profit organization founded in 1994 and operated under Section 501(c)3 of the U.S Internal Revenue Code.
In its early years, SJNI published a manual on the natural history of the Islands for teachers. This is also being used in the local WSU Beach Watchers Program and in training Marine Naturalists through The Whale Museum.
Under contract from the San Juan County Marine Resources Committee, SJNI published a brochure on the Bottom Fish Recovery Program, an eight page full color Stewardship insert focusing upon the county’s Marine Stewardship Area and a compendium of information on environmental issues that was distributed to realtors throughout the county.
SJNI received a Department of Ecology Public Participation Grant in 2008 and subcontracted KWIAHT to develop tables of the relative toxicity of pesticides and herbicides in use in the county. Together with KWIAHT we offered public water quality workshops on the three major islands.
With support from the Paul Allen Foundation, the Institute compiled Nature trunks with resources for teachers and with support from the Orcas Island Community Foundation this collection was expanded to include a Salmon Trunk for use in the Orcas Island Elementary School.
In 2004, SJNI and the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Labs Science Outreach Program (FHLSOP) formed a partnership to create a comprehensive education program for island school children in the natural sciences, Partners in Science. In 2006, SJNI signed a Memorandum of Agreement with UW Friday Harbor Laboratories to be a partner in Science Outreach and was also acknowledged as an affiliate of the University of Washington.
Since 2001 FHLSOP has developed a suite of relevant, hands-on, inquiry-based projects for grades K-12, for local school children and their teachers. An estimated 70% of Friday Harbor Elementary School children, 97% of Friday Harbor Middle School students, and 60% of Friday Harbor High School students were involved in the program 2008/9/8 school year. In the same period an estimated 75% of the student body at Spring Street International School, 40 % of the Lopez High School student body and 20% of the Orcas School community participated in Partners in Science projects, thus SJNI is extending field based, hands on natural science programs to the other major islands.
In 2007, with funding from the Orcas Island Community Foundation and The Russell Family Foundation, SJNI was able to offer projects to 4th, 5th, and 6th students on Orcas, and 6th, 7th and AP Environmental Science students on Lopez Island. Collaborating with SJNI in many of these projects was Russel Barsh, lead scientist and Director of the Center for the Historical Ecology of the Salish Sea (KWIAHT), a Washington incorporated 501(c)(3) conservation laboratory based on Lopez Island. The collaboration continued in 2008 and enriches the program with expertise in environmental chemistry, a boundless enthusiasm for science education and an encyclopedic knowledge of the natural history of the region.
The Institute has also published an eight page full color Stewardship insert focusing upon the county’s Marine Stewardship Area, a brochure on the Bottom Fish Recovery Program on behalf of the county’s Marine Resources Committee and a manual on the natural history of the Islands for teachers. This is also being used in the Beach Watchers Program organized by the local WSU Extension Office.