Katherine Straus

Roles at NAAEE:

ee360 Fellow

Public Education and Outreach Coordinator
City of Federal Way Surface Water Division

Katherine Straus is the Public Education and Outreach Coordinator for the City of Federal Way’s Surface Water Management Division. She works with community groups, residents, businesses, students, and a regional network of stormwater educators to address polluted stormwater runoff through education, community involvement, and targeted behavior change. In her career as an environmental educator, Katherine has always sought to help people view the places they live through a new lens; to help them discover that “nature” doesn’t just exist in some faraway place, but is something that starts at our own backdoors. Katherine is thrilled to be an ee360 Fellow and to have the opportunity to expand and improve upon a successful salmon education program by making it more relevant to high school students. Katherine holds a BA in Environmental Studies from Vassar College and an MA in Education from the University of Washington. In her free time, Katherine helps lead Seattle Zero Waste, a volunteer-run community of people trying to live with less waste. She also loves getting outside, whatever the season, and taking advantage of all of the outdoor opportunities that Seattle has to offer.

About Katherine‘s ee360 Community Action Project

Storm drains are a critical, yet often overlooked piece of city infrastructure. Many residents are not aware of the important role that storm drains play in flood prevention, and do not realize that stormwater flows untreated, directly into local lakes and streams, and eventually into Puget Sound. Stormwater is the number one source of pollution entering Puget Sound today. The City of Federal Way Storm Drain ArtWalk Project seeks to use art to engage residents in conversations about stormwater in a fun, creative, and visual way. The Storm Drain ArtWalk Project will communicate the values of our City and remind residents that our neighborhoods are directly connected to our streams and Puget Sound. The project will help the City meet state mandated education and outreach requirements in an innovative way, while also supporting local artists, adding value to the City’s public spaces, and reaching a wider audience with stormwater education messages. 

Katherine’s Community Action project, “Storming the Sound with Salmon” (SSS) is a partnership between the City of Federal Way and Federal Way Public Schools that uses salmon as the lens through which students learn about stormwater pollution. Federal Way borders Puget Sound, where stormwater runoff is the single largest threat to water quality. The program is designed to teach students about their local watersheds and empower them to take everyday actions that prevent stormwater pollution, while also helping teachers meet the Next Generation Science Standards. Every school in the district participates in SSS by raising Coho salmon in their schools over the course of the school year. In May, primary schools participate in the “Release Event”, where students release their fry into a local creek and learn from local organizations about different water-related topics. Unfortunately, high school students in the district do not currently participate in a similar culminating event. This project seeks to make SSS more relevant to high school students in the district by incorporating a project-based learning component into the program. Students will conduct water quality monitoring at a local site within their school’s watershed, identify a problem based on the data they collect and conduct research to propose a practical solution. The goal of the project is to inspire students to become engaged stewards of their own communities and ultimately, to improve water quality in Federal Way and the Puget Sound region.