South Shore's Outing to Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

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South Shore K-8
Saturday, March 11, 2023
Trip Types:
Bird Watching, Educational, Hiking
8 AM: Pre-trip meeting at Redwing Cafe (downstairs)
8:45 AM: Kids arrive, introductions, gear hand-out, trip preview
9:30 AM: Drive to Nisqually NWR
10:20 AM: Arrive at Nisqually NWR
10:30 AM: Meet with park ranger for orientation talk, hand out scavenger hunt
10:45 AM: Hike 1 mi to Twin Barns, identifying birds/wildlife along the way
11:45 AM: Lunch at Twin Barns
12:30 PM: Hike 1.5 mi to end of Estuary Boardwalk trail, viewing wildlife along the way, then 2 mi back to Visitor Center
2:45 PM: Closing circle at Visitor Center
3:00 PM: Drive back to school (with stop for ice cream if we're running ahead of schedule)
3:50 PM: Arrive at school, return gear
4:00 PM: Kids get picked up
We met up at the school at 8:45 to hand out gear and do introductions. The school was open, which was nice for last bathroom runs before departure. Left right on time (9:30 AM); met up with park ranger at the Visitors Center at 10:30 AM. She gave us a short spiel about the refuge in the auditorium, which was fine but not super well-suited to the younger crowd. Students checked out binoculars and we headed out by 11:15 AM or so.

We took the gravel road to the twin barns and had lunch at the picnic tables around 11:45 AM. The squirrells were intense and very distracting to the students, who needed some gentle reminders about picking up trash, etc. Headed back onto the trail around 12:15 after handing out a scavenger hunt (from NWR's education packet).

Spent some time at an overlook next to the lunch spot doing the scavenger hunt; a worthy diversion.

Once we headed out on the main trail the group got very spread out but we tried to corral at both of the shelters, to mixed success. We saw a couple of Great Blue Herons as well as a bald eagle from far off. We headed back via the slightly longer eastern path and reached the Visitors Center around 1:45 PM. Hit the bathrooms and checked out the exhibit there for a few minutes before heading over to the Education Center to play in their outdoor play garden until it was time to leave at 2:50 PM. Got back to school with time to hand back gear and hand out leftover food before parent pickup at 4 PM.
This is a good trip for elementary and middle school students but does not necessarily fill the whole day without supplement: lingering at overlooks, talking to the park ranger, playing at the Education Center. The scavenger hunt was met with underwhelming enthusiasm but I was frankly glad we had something extra to break up the time. Next time I would bring topical rewards for completing it, as well as clipboards to better deal with the wind.