Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Water World 2010

On May 2nd, Fort Worden experienced an influx of 56 fifth and sixth graders.  Accompanied by their parents and chaperones, most had traveled from Yakima, Puyallup or Spokane but a few hailed from Port Townsend. They were here to participate Water World; an annual camp that is a dynamic fusion of art and science.  As a collaboration between the Marine Science Center and Centrum, the staff included instructors from many artistic disciplines:  visual artist, Darwin Nordin, writer Nisi Shawl, and movement artist Christian Swenson. The marine biology contingent was comprised of Libby Palmer (co-founder of the Marine Science Center), Julia and Jess.
One of the quiet moments, drawing by the pond
Photo by: Al McCleese

Water World was an amazing, immersive experience for students and staff alike.  The days were jam-packed with classes on a wide spectrum of topics. The art classes included writing, drawing, painting, and movement. The science classes covered marine invertebrates, behavioral ecology of orcas, and the anatomy and life history of gray whales (students even put together an entire gray whale skeleton!). 
Vertebral Puzzlers
Photo by: Melinda Pongrey

Practicing scientific observation and drawing; Persephone put on quite the show! 
Photo by: Al McCleese

Time was also spent outdoors on an all-day beach walk that included a pond and the lagoon.  It was amazing to see how the science and art complemented each other throughout the week in every class.  The all-day walk had time for students to draw organisms they found, write about what they saw and create art installations on the beach out of shells, wood, sand and rocks.  Each student also got the opportunity to participate in a large beach seine. Evening activities included group games, crafts (creating their own sea creature), Native American storytelling, a campfire on the beach and a final student performance/presentation of their work.
Inspecting a pond sample.
Photo by: Darwin Nordin

Students created  large-scale, abstract beach drawings. 
Concept and photo by: Darwin Nordin

One of the main objectives of Water World is to enhance students’ understanding of the marine environment through the lenses of both science and art. Unfortunately, it seems that many people today believe a rigid dichotomy exists between these two fields, but this program exemplified how art and science can not only co-exist, but also can beautifully enrich each other. These 5th and 6th grade students were able to seamlessly integrate art and marine biology, creating awe-inspiring works of art that depicted new scientific information they had gleaned from their classes. As instructors it was a true pleasure to engage with students whose curiosity, creativity and enthusiasm were so evident.
Movement teacher, Christian Swenson exploring a tide pool with a student. 

Photo by: Darwin Nordin

An installation on the beach, inspired by the nature-art of Andy Goldsworthy.
Photo by: Darwin Nordin

Julia Ledbetter and Jess Swihart

For more information visit Centrum's website:


  1. Thanks for this nice post. This is very nice workout here from children. I like the article.....!

  2. Amazing site, excellent pictures and excellent effort for bringing the kids to be more aware of the ocean.


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