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Salish was incorporated in 1994, received 501(c)(3) nonprofit status in 1996, and offered initial programs in the spring of 1997.

Since our founding in 1994, over 10,000 middle and high school students, over 1000 teachers and 100's of schools have sailed the waters of Puget Sound as part of our innovative "science-under-sail" programs.

Salish’s growing success is a result of the commitment to a novel idea by an inspired group of staff, board members, volunteers, donors and others who believed in the creation of an unparalleled learning experience and the impact that it would have on thousands of lives. 

 Programs are organized at our small headquarters on Bainbridge Island, and occur throughout Puget Sound between March and October; expeditions take place as far south as Tacoma and as far north as the San Juan Islands.  During summer months, Carlyn returns to her home base on Orcas Island.

 Following inquiry-based methodologies, students are given control and ownership of all aspects of their Salish learning experience, with the belief that students would develop a joy for learning and a new-found appreciation for science that they would carry back to their traditional classroom settings.

 As our success grows, so do our plans to expand:  to reach more students, especially those at lower income levels, to create more learning opportunities for all ages, and to integrate more fully into the regional science and environmental communities through novel partnerships and collaborations.  If you'd like to be a part of our success, please see opportunities on our Get Involved page.

Our History

The Salish vision was formed in 1994 by Co-founders Kathy Murphy and Sophy Johnston.  That year, Four Winds*Westward Ho Camp on Orcas Island, Washington, was planning the construction of a 60-foot sailboat to be used by the camp during the summer months. 

Kathy and Sophy, connected to Four Winds and well experienced in the world of boat-based education, saw a fabulous opportunity to create a unique science education program that would utilize the vessel during the school year (spring and fall).  After consulting with teachers and administrators, it became clear that there was a need for a program to give middle and high school students the opportunity to learn how to do real science through student-designed, boat-based research expeditions.  Following inquiry-based methodologies, students are given control and ownership of all aspects of their Salish learning experience, with the belief that students would develop a joy for learning and a new-found appreciation for science that they would carry back to their traditional classroom settings.

As construction of the new vessel progressed, so did exciting plans for Salish.  Much of the original vessel design was influenced by the programmatic visions.  In 1996, Salish was granted non-profit status and the vessel, christened Carlyn, was completed.  Salish’s first programs were conducted in the spring of 1997.  Since then, Salish has rapidly evolved into a full-fledged educational institution serving hundreds of students a year.

Programs are organized at our small headquarters on Bainbridge Island, and occur throughout Puget Sound between March and October; expeditions take place as far south as Tacoma and as far north as the San Juan Islands.  During summer months, Carlyn returns to her home base on Orcas Island.

Salish’s growing success is a result of the commitment to a novel idea by an inspired group of staff, board members, volunteers, donors and others who believed in the creation of an unparalleled learning experience and the impact hat it would have on thousands of lives. 

Integral to the success has been a history of outstanding organizational leadership.  Our founders, Kathy Murphy and Sophy Johnston, and their un-tiring efforts nurtured the idea into fruition over the course of the organizations first years.  In July of 1999, Ellie Linen Low joined Sophy as Co-Director, and then assumed the Executive Director role in 2002.  Under her leadership, Salish’s annual budget grew by more than 50%, the program was evaluated--a first-in-the-field comprehensive assessment, and significant improvements in organizational structure and effectiveness were employed.  Ellie’s efforts provided a well-positioned structure for growth as Stephen Streufert took the helm as Executive Director in April of 2005.

Strong program leadership has been central to Salish success.  Salish's first Education Director Lori Mitchell Midthun set a stage of excellence through her efforts to refine the program outcomes, link educational theory to practice. and establish an educator "espirit de corps" through intentional training and community building.  Her successor, Jenny McColloch continued those traditions and was insturmental expanding Salish reach.  During her years, Salish made strong connections to the policy, education and philanthropic communities; and, grew student research onto the the Sound's watersheds through a program funded by Salish's first federal grant through NOAA. 

As our success grows, so do our plans to expand:  to reach more students, especially those at lower income levels, to create more learning opportunities for all ages, and to integrate more fully into the regional science and environmental communities through novel partnerships and collaborations. 


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