October 20, 2011 - As part of the statewide teacher in-service day on Friday, October 8, Eastside teachers stepped out of the classroom, and onto the immaculately-groomed greens at the Glendale Country Club. They were not skipping out of their continuing education, but participated in a unique, hands-on workshop with First Green, a not-for-profit organization that uses golf courses as environmental learning labs.

Through First Green, local golf course superintendents and/or representatives host students on field trips where they test water quality, collect soil samples, identify plants, design plantings, assist in stream bed restoration and are involved in the ecology and environmental aspects of the golf course. The students are also introduced to many other aspects of golf.

Friday’s group of teachers walked the golf course and saw Kelsey Creek, soon to be filled with spawning salmon. Then, some slipped their feet into waders and others held stop watches and clip boards, to measure the velocity of the stream by timing how long it took an orange to traverse a certain distance – exactly what their students could do on a field trip.

“What a great way to connect the community in the classroom. It has elements that will engage the students not only that day but lifelong,” said one teacher’s evaluation. Another wrote, “I think this is a great program. I can't wait to get students from my school, who otherwise wouldn't ever get on a golf course, out at our local course. I plan to share what I'm learning here with the science department and principal at my school to get this underway in my building.”

In addition to the hands-on activities, teachers heard from a panel of experts on Washington State University’s Palouse Ridge Golf Course Learning Lab, environmental research at WSU-Puyallup, environmental stewardship at golf tournaments, and a presentation from Sally Hanft of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 10 office on environmental learning resources available to teachers.

The teachers learned how the golf course is an excellent learning lab and also earned continuing education credits. They also met golf course superintendents from local courses ready to host field trips, so the learning can continue as more classrooms get involved.