Stream Adopters Going To Japan


A Snohomish County-based environmental education organization is going global.

On Sunday, 13 people from the Adopt-A-Stream Foundation - including four pupils from local school districts - leave for Tokyo to attend an international conference sponsored by Japan's Come Back Salmon Society and the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper.

The foundation was the only U.S. organization invited to the conference, which will include delegates from the Soviet Union, Korea, Austria, Great Britain, Canada and Japan.

The Adopt-A-Stream group will include public officials such as Christine Gregoire, director of the state Department of Ecology, and Snohomish County teachers who have initiated Adopt-A-Stream programs in their schools.

But the key environmental ambassadors will be pupils - who, with the help of their teachers, have learned about the environment through protecting and planting salmon in streams near their schools.

Fifth-grader Krista Moffitt, said she's worked for about a month on a short speech she'll present about the program at her school, Sunnyside Elementary in Marysville. Three years ago, the school ``adopted'' a stream close to school grounds, and this year pupils are waiting to see if the fry they planted will return.

Krista's talk, along with the speeches given by pupils from all the countries, will be translated into several languages and broadcast over Japanese television.

Krista, 11, is preparing for the cultural challenges, too, including a crash course in chopstick handling.

Jackson Elementary School in Everett, which has received national press coverage of its successful efforts to bring salmon back to an urban creek, will send fifth-graders Tricia Kane and Kimberly Trowbridge. And Laurie Bayes, a ninth-grader, will represent Stanwood High School.

The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper is paying for airfare, meals and accommodations.

All four U.S. pupils are the products of an environmental curriculum that got its start when a Snohomish County employee decided to get the public involved in a project funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Tom Murdoch, now Adopt-A-Stream's director, said the public involvement requirements of all federal grants usually are fulfilled by holding public meetings or distributing a publication. But he decided to go one step farther by getting people out to do some of the work covered by certain grants.

He started with 10 groups which adopted 10 streams in 1981, and the organization has grown steadily since. It incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1985 and spreads its environmental ethic through publications such as a newsletter that goes to 2,000 people nationwide.

The foundation, with help from the schools, has hosted Japanese pupils, who wanted to see Snohomish County's environmental education programs firsthand. Next week's conference, however, will be the first reciprocal visit.

The foundation's long-term goal, Murdoch said, is to find groups to adopt every stream in Washington. Beyond that, he said, the group would like to help form an international network of environmental educators.

Next week's conference, he said, is a step toward the latter.