August 6, 2012 - The First Green Foundation enjoyed a very productive 2011-12 school year with increased field trips to golf courses, expanded reach and broadened partnerships with school districts and entities affiliated with education, conservation, environmental sustainability and golf.

Here are some highlights from last year:

  • In January 2012 the organization brought aboard Jeff Shelley as the new president of its board of directors. Jeff has a 25-year-plus background in golf as a writer, publisher, media director and editor. David Burger joined the board shortly after. David has been the executive director of Stewardship Partners since 2000 and has 15 years of experience working on community-based salmon recovery and managing nonprofit organizations.
    Shelley and Burger join fellow board members secretary/treasurer Steve Kealy, vice president Jeff Gullikson, Lynn McKay and Bill Meyer. Also overseeing the organization are executive director Karen Armstead and programs and marketing director Cathy Relyea.
  • In February First Green hosted a booth at the Seattle Golf Show, where it informed attendees about the program and collected contacts from those interested in taking the program to their local communities. Overall, we had a tremendous response and helped grow First Green during these face-to-face meetings.
  • In March, members of First Green’s board met with the Western Washington Catholic Archdiocese Superintendent’s Office and received administration support in reaching its 70-plus Catholic schools west of the Cascades between the Canadian border and Oregon. In addition, First Green furthered its existing working relationships with public schools, with expansion in this area a primary goal for the upcoming year.
  • The number of field trips grew, with the largest turnout coming at Glendale Country Club on April 30 when over 120 students, teachers, parents, state and regional golf association officials, environmental groups, as well as representatives of Puget Sound-area schools and school districts showing up on a raw, windy day to learn about the environmental benefits of golf. Also on hand was KOMO TV, the local ABC affiliate which ran three segments on its evening and late-evening news broadcasts. The trip was a success, as attested by student Markus Schiffer, who remarked: "I learned about the soil at the golf course, the salmon, and kind of how to putt a little better."
  • A May 25th field trip at Glendale involving Interlake High School’s 30-student Advanced Horticulture class and teacher Lynn McKay was attended by Dr. Brad Smith, the Dean of the Huxley School of the Environment at Western Washington University who was formerly the national environmental education director at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Dr. Smith, a non-golfer who is extensively involved with many national conservation and sustainability organizations, came away impressed with the hands-on, out-of-the-classroom-and-into-nature focus of First Green.
  • A June field trip at Sand Point Country Club in Seattle brought 60 second-and third-grade students for a variety of hands-on activities – from identifying the number of individual plants growing in a soil sample to using spoons to sift through leaf compost to sorting out and counting insects. One girl exclaimed, “This is way funner (sic) than panning for gold!”
    Also in attendance that day was Paul Wilkinson, Director of Golf Services for the City of Seattle, who came to observe and said afterward, “I greatly enjoyed being at the Sand Point field trip. First Green field trips bring teachers, students and parents to the golf course who might not otherwise come. The learning labs demonstrate some of the ways that golf and golf courses enhance environmental quality – and provide a fun, innovative hands-on way for students to experience science at the golf course. I am a strong supporter of the program on our municipal courses."
  • In an effort to enhance communication and outreach efforts, a new and much more powerful website (www.thefirstgreen.org) was designed and built to offer more interactivity, news and video capability as well as social-media tools. The new site enables us to affordably extend our programs beyond the state of Washington and Pacific Northwest by providing online tools and resources for local programs throughout North America. As an example, for the upcoming school season new programs are in the process of being developed in Florida, California, Oregon and British Columbia. Our continuing focus will be to expand First Green and make it a model program that promotes education, conservation and the game of golf anywhere.
  • Beyond the field trips, First Green helped coordinate hands-on student outings that included spring planting days at golf courses; the design and construction of a nature trail at Overlake Country Club; enhancing owl nests at Tri-Country Club in Kennewick, Wash.; students observing a Merlin falcon habitat at Everett Golf & Country Club; and advancing the program to Agriculture teachers from throughout Washington State.
  • Among the presentations made by First Green were at the annual meeting of the Pacific Northwest Golf Association; the Western Golf Association Advisory Board; the Western Washington Golf Course Superintendents Association; the Northwest Turfgrass Association’s annual conference; and the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America national board meeting in Seattle.
  • To better document our past, present and future efforts, an internal First Green initiative will create an extensive database of student, teacher and school participants in field trips; field-trip surveys for students and teachers; newsletter-contact lists; participating golf courses and golf superintendents; and other items for future reference.
  • Funding continued to be steady, with primary sources including the Washington State Golf Association, United States Golf Association, Glendale Country Club, Broadmoor Foundation, Northwest Turfgrass Association and individual donors. Future plans include the “Friends of First Green” program which will encourage and expand involvement in field trips and investment by donors through individual contributions.