“Water is Life… To honor and protect the waters is our responsibility as people of the land.”
–Winona LaDuke

The SWS Wetlands Water Quality Project began with the senior class of 2021 in their biochemistry class with teacher Amanda Ayling. (Follow the link to read about the Wetlands Water Quality Project.) The project continues with this year’s grade 9 students as they study water quality in the wetlands of Magnuson Park during their organic chemistry block—and have a special opportunity to meet local author and reporter, Lynda Mapes.

In ninth grade chemistry, students engage in a hands-on, place-based outdoor project to measure water quality, asking two questions:

  • Are the wetlands functioning as designed to clean urban runoff before it enters Lake Washington?
  • Is the water clean enough to support a salmon run returning to Thornton Creek?
Author and reporter Lynda Mapes visits Seattle Waldorf School


Students are outside twice per week, rain or shine or cold or mud. In addition to field chemistry, they also observe, measure, and record in the laboratory with a focus on both qualitative and quantitative observation. This block lays the groundwork for other chemistry explorations in high school by developing skills of qualitative description, accurate measurement, and dimensional analysis. By understanding the water quality in our own backyard, students build a foundation for the tenth grade Hydrology block, where they learn the story of the Elwha dam removal on the Olympic Peninsula, and then in twelfth grade, as they study the Ecology of the Salish Sea—all weaving together the truth that water is sacred to life and there is a connection between water quality, salmon runs, and orca health.

Orca hardcover book by Lynda Mapes


Ninth grade students are very fortunate to have each received the beautiful hardcover book published in May 2021—Orca: Shared Waters, Shared Home, about the orca of the Salish Sea. Written by Seattle Times reporter Lynda Mapes, the book was gifted by the King family, who also arranged for the author to come and speak with SWS ninth and tenth grade students.

For those looking for opportunities to take action, there are a number of projects happening around the area to help protect habitat and support the salmon and orca populations. Follow the link to Better Ground Partner Events for more information. This website also lists Ten Actions for Orcas that your family can talk through and perhaps commit to one or several as time permits.

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