Spring Brings Bees and Straw

Green Team Week March 31st- April 5th

Written by Jesuit Volunteers Dane Breslin and Becca Strohm

Gladstone High School @ Clackamas-Willamette Confluence 4/1

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Students from Gladstone High School made their first trip out of the new trimester this week to the Clackamas-Willamette Confluence.  This site is brand new this year and needs lots of work.  It is home to a variety of invasive plants including Armenian blackberry, English ivy, clematis, morning glory, trees of heaven and holly.  In the future this site will become essential side channel habitat for fish and other wildlife in the Clackamas and Willamette rivers.  Since it is the very end of our planting season students started out by planting some native shrubs in an area that used to be all blackberry.  Students planted around 75 shrubs including Oregon grape, salmonberry and some snowberry.  In addition to the site being full of invasive plants it is also full of trash.  An old dumping ground, the site is full of litter including some pretty creepy, old toys.  Students collected around 20 lbs of trash which we hauled out to be disposed of properly.  Great job Gladstone students- thanks for the enthusiasm!

Clackamas High School @ Rock Creek 4/3, 4/4

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Students from Clackamas High School enjoyed a beautiful day at Rock Creek this week.  They participated in a variety of activities to help restore the area.  First off students spread 10 bales of straw around the bare ground where blackberry was removed and new native plants have been planted.  The straw is to help retain moisture so that when it rains the bare ground does not just become mud and erode into the stream.  Students also planted about 15 more native plants and coffee bagged.  Coffee bags are put around plants in grassy areas to help suppress the grass and other weeds.  The next day students mulched, removed blackberry and put up beaver caging.  Mulching also helps to suppress weeds and retain moisture around the plants.  Students mulched in a perfect doughnut shape around 100 native trees and shrubs.  In addition students removed about 30 square feet of invasive blackberry roots and protected 30 saplings with beaver caging.  Thanks for the hard work CHS students- see you next time at Rock Creek.


Monday, March 31st

Glencoe High School at McKay Creek

This Monday I met Glencoe High School freshman not at McKay Creek, but in the classroom where we investigated and discovered a whole plethora of interesting bugs!  With turkey basters the students combed through the muddy waters (I collected) from McKay Creek that morning.  Once a critter was found it was promptly placed under the electron microscope for further investigation.  The students found some very interesting macro invertebrates this Monday including (check guide thing for names).

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Overall, it was a wonderful day by the microscopes! Thanks Glencoe!

Wednesday, April 2nd

Rachel Carson at Willow Creek


This Wednesday Rachel Carson Environmental Middle School met at the Willow Creek old site where we went on site tours, studied macro invertebrates and installed William’s bee boxes!  Starting off the day students got a chance to see the site Rachel Carson has been stewards of for 10 year.  The next group worked with Nicole collecting macros with long nets from the stream and then siphoning them off into smaller trays for a closer look. The last group worked with me and William who is doing a project on bees.  He actually built two bee boxes himself and we spent the day planting native plants that will attract the bees.  We also traveled to the new site and worked to install the box he made into an old tree.  I look forward to William’s presentation at the West Side Summit!

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Thank you for a beautiful day Rachel Carson!

Thursday, April 3rd

City View Charter at School


This Thursday Nicole, Becca and I visited City View Charter School toting bags of trash, cans of spray paint and minds filled with imagination- TRASH ART DAY!  Last week, we collected old plastic bottles, candy wrappers and a host of other items from Philips Creek. We cleaned the items and on Thursday students cut them into pieces and, spray painted them and then glued them together to make a beautiful dragonfly mural.  We started the event by doing our own small trash pickup at the school and discussing the problems we all face with litter in the environment. Great job City View Charter!

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Forest Park Elementary at Cedar Mill Creek

On Thursday Nicole and I met with Forest Park Elementary school students and planted all of the remaining native plants at Cedar Mill Creek- around 50 overall!  That is quite impressive given that most of the planters were less than five feet tall.  Also, one of the students worked with me and offered to do a planting demo for the Summit. He did an excellent job explaining how to safely get our beloved native plants into the ground. Thank you Forest Park!

Friday, April 4th

Valley Catholic High School at Johnson Creek

This Friday, Valley Catholic High School met at Johnson Creek and we planted 280 native plants!  The classes worked like machines expertly digging basketball sized holes, massaging roots to stimulate growth and graceful plant dancing once the holes were filled.  To celebrate our last day together we had delicious doughnuts generously donated be Sesame Donuts. The folks at Sesame even gave me a free coffee for coming in- Thank you so much!  Valley Catholic I will miss you all and thank you for being such excellent planters!

Saturday, April 5th

Forest Grove High School at Gales Creek

This Saturday Forest Grove High School met at Gales Creek and we did a plethora of activities. We started the day with coffee bagging the 70 native plants that we installed the previous visit.  The coffee bags will give our natives a head up in the continuous battle with Reed Canary Grass.  Next, we installed the remaining native grasses by the stream (which was very muddy). The hope is that these native grasses will actively complete with the Reed Canary Grass for dominance of the area.  Lastly, we got into the stream itself and collected macro invertebrates. We found the most AMAZING variety of bugs including Mayflies and a Caddis fly the size of my pinky finger!  To wrap up the day Ben Crabtree (the “best teacher ever” according to a number of students) treated us all to homemade brownies which competed with the donuts I provided.

This was our last visit and I will miss you dearly Forest Grove High school!


Dane Breslin



Forest Grove HS Braves the Storm

Forest Grove High School @ Gales Creek January 11th, 2014

Written by: SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Becca Strohm

Forest Grove High School students braved the rain, wind and mud- all in the name of Green Team!  A contingent of students endured the weather on a Saturday morning to do some native planting and bioengineering.  First off we learned some ethnobotany and fun facts on some of our native plants, including;

Grand Fir needles can be used to make a tea

  Pacific Willow was used to make baskets.   Women who used to weave baskets of           willow never got arthritis because Pacific Willow also has asprin-like properties.

Ponderosa Pine needles can be eaten like seeds.

Western Red Cedar or the “Tree of Life”- it is said that if one stands with their back           to a Cedar, you will gain great strength for the day.

After a little plant identification, students planted around 40 trees and shrubs!

After a break for lunch and a warm-up in the bus, students came back out to do some bioengineering.  Students harvested willow and dogwood branches and then made them into live stakes about 3 feet long.  Next they were installed into the ground, right by the edge of the Gales Creek in hopes they will take root and help to hold in the soil, preventing erosion.  About 45 stakes were installed by Forest Grove students.  Thanks for all your hard work through the storm  Forest Grove!  We’ll see you next time at Gales Creek!

SOLVE Westside Student Summit … a Green Team Celebration!

Text and photos by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest AmeriCorps member Lauren McKenna and SOLVE staff Briana Goodwin

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Last week at Valley Catholic High School, SOLVE celebrated another successful — and fun! — year with the Westside Green Team students at the 3rd Annual SOLVE Westside Student Summit, with videos, photos,, powerpoints, reflections, poetry and song!

To kick off the Summit, keynote speaker Rob Emanuel, from Clean Water Services, addressed the students with advice on following your interests, getting involved in things like SOLVE and experiencing opportunities related to natural resources and environmental science.  What you are doing now can be important for you future career!  Follow your passions!

Student Litter Art: from trash to treasure!

Student Litter Art: from trash to treasure!

Kris Taylor, stand-in Green Team Program Coordinator, and Lauren McKenna, Westside Green Team leader, introduced each of the presenting student groups from six schools in Beaverton, Hillsboro and Forest Grove.  They presented on various topic related to watershed health, stream restoration and things they learned during their year at a SOLVE Green Team site:

Valley Catholic High School (Beaverton): Environmental Science students presented on how much carbon is sequestered by the trees at their Johnson Creek site —

City View Charter School (Hillsboro): As their very first year part of Green Team, they presented on the restoration they have done at Council Creek and their favorite things they learned.

Aloha High School:  Two AP Environmnetal Science students talked about beavers at Butternut Creek.

Forest Grove High School: PCC dual-credit class talked about restoring Gales Creek and sang an original song, “Wetland Success” to the tune of a Lady Gaga song!

Glencoe High School (Hillsboro): Students made a video-photo slideshow of the progress of their McKay Creek restoration efforts.

Rachel Carson Environmental Middle School (Beaverton): One student shared reflection of his three years at Willow Creek, another on pesticides found in Willow Creek, and a third read her original poem (see below)

“As the River Flows” by Elise Kuechle

As the river flows , the salmon swims

against the current.

As the salmon swims, an insect

skims the surface.

As the insect skims, the birds

chatter to one another.

As the birds chatter, the lichen

slowly grows.

As the lichen grows, the spider

weaves her web.

As the deer watches, the sun

climbs the sky.

As the rain falls, the children

begin their work.

As the children work, the river

flows over the dappled rocks.

As the river flows, the world

begins to breath.


Rain pours from a rip in the sky.

Mud is the glue that holds us together.

Rachel Carson students, including the SOLVE Student of the Year Peyton (on Left) enjoying the refreshments!

Rachel Carson students, including the SOLVE Student of the Year Peyton (on Left) enjoying the refreshments!

We also awarded Rachel Carson eighth grader, Peyton Tierney, as our westside SOLVE Student of the Year for her positive attitude while at her Green Team site and her going above and beyond in researching pesticides in Willow Creek (which she has bees asked to continue research on!).  Congrats… you have been a great part of Green Team!

Students, teachers and attendees also wrote down comments about how they help and what they love about the environment:

“Sing from your heart.

Step back and see the mountain move.”

One generation plants the trees

another gets the shade.”

“Nature plays a big role in our lives, never take it for granted.” – Mercedes

“Plants grow in the same way we grow:

with love and nurturing!” – Brian

“You know it’s been a good day when you’re covered in mud.” – Tyler

“Always remember… Boots are your friends!” – Eli

Thank you to:

all our amazing Green Team teachers and students!  You have not only learned a lot, have been very dedicated and have helped restore our watershed, but have inspired many and SOLVE has had fun getting to know you!

SOLVE staff who helped make this a great celebration! Especially Kris Taylor, Meghan Ballard and our Eastside Green Team leader Nicole Poletto.

Rob Emanuel and Clean Water Services: for your support  and  guidance!

Sesame Donuts, Starbucks Coffee, Einstein Bros Bagels,   and Boyds Coffee Company for donations of fun and smiles.

Seven Saturdays, a Year of Stewardship

Photos and text by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Northwest AmeriCorps member Lauren McKenna

On Forest Grove High School’s last SOLVE Green Team day, they:

But back in September 2012, Ben Crabtree’s sophomore bio students probably did not think they would:

plant on the day of the first frost

– spend hours in drizzling rain

– find mating newts

– become experienced bioengineers

– be able to tell the difference between Armenian, Trailing and Evergreen blackberry

– haul shredded Douglas-fir mulch through the mud

… for the sake of Gales Creek!

This special group of young people spent seven Saturday mornings stewarding Gales Creek.  In addition to receiving dual credit at Portland Community College, they also removed invasive reed canarygrass and blackberry, planted native trees and shrubs, mulched them, made and installed Pacific Willow live cuttings, looked at the bug life in the creek, laid down burlap coffee bags to shad out invasives, wrote poems and articles and drew pictures about the creek.  Let’s just say it was a full — and successful — year!  About 18 hours worth!  Check out their year on Green Team below!

THANK YOU Forest Grove High School and Mr. Crabtree for your dedication to Gales Creek, the laughs and conversations and new discoveries.  It has been a wonderful year with each of you!

Spring is in the Air!

Text and photos by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Northwest AmeriCorps Member Lauren McKenna

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Spring is ALMOST here, as Forest Grove High School found out during their recent visit to Gales Creek.  The blackberry (oh dear!) is showing some green; the salmonberry’s butterfly shaped leaves are taking flight (not literally); the red alders are dangling with catkins, getting ready for pollination season; the elderberry leaves are growing larger each day, soon to ready as a stinging-nettle-sting remedy; the stinging nettle (yes, it’s native, and yes, when prepared right, is edible, healthy, and deliscious!) is in abundance; and the willow buds are blooming…in all of thier fuzziness!


Willow budding! (aka catkins)

The coming of spring also means the end of planting season, when native plants still hanging out in nursery pots are leaving their dormant stage and will begin sending out new growth.  In order to ensure good planting, the high school cleared a large area (about 20 by 20 feet) of blackberry roots and planted salmonberry shrubs and cedar trees!  A lot of work, but well worth the extra care so that later in the summer, the newly planted nativer are not covered with new blackberry growing from roots still in the ground.

Thank you, Forest Grove High School and Mr. Crabtree, for your hard work and eye for detail!  We love working alongside you… Gales Creek is looking wonderful!

Willow Staking 101: Gales Creek Edition

Text and photos by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Northwest Member Lauren McKenna

Forest Grove HS @ Gales Creek 12/1/2012


Many SOLVE creek and stream sites have willows, of course.  But it is really exciting when there is a willow large enough to harvest cuttings from!  It is a good indicator that there is hope for the creek and that native plants can grow there.  Gales Creek, now very wet from recent rains and full of freshly planted native plants (thanks to Forest Grove High School and Forest Gorve Community School), is ready for another makeover: willow cuttings.  There is evidence that placing willow cuttings — basically placing trimmed poles made from willow branches — is VERY effective in eliminating invasive reed canarygrass, which engulf much of Gales Creek (see blog for Boardman Wetlands for more information).  WIllows contain auxins (natural plant growth hormones that help it grow quickly.  These chemicals are especially concentrated in young branches used to make the cuttings.  Willows also soak up toxins, stabilize the soil, grow quickly and provide shade and habitat.  Here’s a visual of the steps Forest Grove students took…

These students from their after-school Green Team placed 47 Pacific Willow (Salix lucida) pole cuttings into the ground that will quickly re-root and start to establish themselves.  They also planted an additional 27 native trees and shrubs and added rich, warm, still-decomposing mulch to the 110 plants they had planted during their last visit!  Mind you, there are only about 15 students, plus Mr. Crabtree.  Talk about the will-ow to work!

When the mornings work was finished, students shared how they felt about their experience working at Gales Creek so far.  Some words that were said:

proud, accomplished, fulfilled, muddy, productive,

useful, joyful, hilarious, grateful…

One student exclaimed, when he realized they were not returning to Gales until February, “What we aren’t coming back next month?!”

Thanks again Forest Grove, for your enthusiasm and energy!  See you after the New Year!

Gales Creek Welcomes Frosty New Plants!

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Written by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Northwest Member Lauren McKenna

Forest Grove HS @ Gales Creek 11/10/2012

Welcome Frost!  Right after the first frost of the season, 12 Forest Grove High School students did not let the chill discourage them from planting — and nurturing — 110 native trees and shrubs at Gales Creek.  That’s a lot of plants!  Their teacher, Mr. Crabtree, and their bus driver joined  in on the fun!

Native Plants! Clockwise from top right: Vine Maple (Acer circinatum) , Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis), Pacific Ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus), Salmonberry thorns, Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata), Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa)

The enthusiastic class helped plant Salmonberry and Pacific Ninebark near the creek, as well as some Western Red Cedars and Oregon Ash on higher ground.  They learned a little about plant identification, learned proper planting methods, pink flagged the native plants, drew their favorites and reflected on and wrote about their role in preserving not only Gales Creek, but all of the earth. Some students wrote…

“I believe we should preserve […] our rivers & forests, as they are an integral part of our cultural heritage…”

“I am glad that I am able to be a part of this group and can give back to my environment.”

Salmonberry art by FGHS student

In the spirit of Thanksgiving…Thank You, FGHS, for your dedication to Gales Creek and for your lively enthusiasm on an early Saturday morning!

Uncovering a Hidden Gem: Gales Creek

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Written by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Northwest Member Lauren McKenna

Forest Grove HS @ Gales Creek 10/6/2012

Last weekend, Forest Gove High School students got up early on a crisp Saturday morning to save the native plants growing around Gales Creek.

Most of the native plants — Pacific and Scoulers Willow (Salix scouleriana, that’s the one with fuzzy under-leaves) and dogwood — were planted by other FGHS students a couple years back and look great except for one thing: Reed Canary grass!  This undesirable bunchgrass grows like crazy and very tall, shading out native plants and smothering them.  It has an extensive seedbank in the soil, so cutting it back and ripping it out does not mean it will not grow back the next year.  Its one enemy, however is shade; so by cutting it back until the native plants get tall enough, we can eventually eliminate this tough-cookie of an invasive!

The culprit of the day, looking quite innocent here.

Upon clipping down the grass, the FGHS students we pretty excited to see “all pink now!”, as the pink flags on the native willows and dogwoods began to reveal themselves.  The students started to name some of the trees they uncovered, too!  Their teacher, Mr. Crabtree (who was working hard all morning pulling out invasive as well as collecting some invasive plant samples to bring to his classroom) said that next time, they want to work at Gales Creek twice as long!

Thank you for your hard work, laughs and enthusiastic grass-cutting/ native-plant-saving!

Time to Celebrate: West Side Student Summit

The hard work is over and now it is time to celebrate. Students part of SOLVE’s Green Team Program on the West Side of the Willamette have been working tirelessly all year- learning about riparian ecology and doing active stream restoration. They have spent many days in pouring rain, thick mud, and weaving through thorny blackberry to improve the health of their watersheds. Now, it was time to share our findings and accomplishments with one another, our funders, scientists in the field, and the entire community.

Students arrived in clothes very different from the usual muddy rain gear we are familiar with and we began listening to Meghan (SOLVE) welcome us to the event and thank us all for our hard work. Next, Sarah Pinnock, Wetlands Education Specialist at Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve, gave our keynote speech. She has a degree in Environmental Science from Marylhurst University.  She has been an educator and naturalist in the Northwest for 25 years, and has been a Wetlands Education Specialist at Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve for almost 13 years. Sarah designs and delivers field science programs and traveling programs for schools and groups, summer camps, adult and family programs. She encouraged us to look for the thing we love doing and to never be afraid to pursue it. It was so great to hear her inspirational words of wisdom!

Next, students presented on topics of their choice from their year working with SOLVE. We heard about everything from how plants sequester carbon to how macroinvertebrates tell us about the quality of the water in our streams. We heard about the incredible amount of work students have done to remove blackberry, ivy, morning glory, Reed canary grass, and to plant native trees and shrubs and take care of them. As a whole, Green Teams on the West Side have planted 2,800 trees and shrubs this school year.

Then we headed out to the lobby to hear about summer internship opportunities and admire all of the incredible garbage art and writing reflections of fellow Green Team students.

Together, as Green Team students in the Portland-Metro area you all have demonstrated that the power of young, informed, and devoted students is unstoppable. Your willingness to learn about the rivers in your backyard and turn that information into positive change is absolutely unbelievable. This positive energy and eagerness to make a difference will truly make this world a better place- in honesty, it already has.

Thank you all so much for being a part of Green Team this year. Congratulations to all of you dedicated stewards of your streams!

Forest Grove High School: Grasses Have Mustaches

Written by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest Member, Charlie

This is a very busy and exciting time for the SOLVE Green Team staff! On top of wrapping up the school year for a lot of Green Teams, we just finished up our Summits which were awesome and amazing. One of the Green Teams who has just said ‘farewell’ to their restoration site for the summer was Forest Grove High School at Gale’s Creek.

Clear skies and sunshine were waiting for them at Gales Creek, it was Green Team karma in response to the wet and cold weather they had experienced during their previous two visits. This time they came out, students continued to maintenance on the plants they had planted in the winter by putting biodegradable coffee bags around them. The invasive Reed Canary Grass was nearly chest high in some of the areas so the hard work we have put into staking these coffee bags to suppress invasives from growing right next to the planted natives was very relevant.

Now that spring has officially sprung, so have all of the leaves in the plants, so students also went for a walk learning tips on how to identify plants. They learned that when looking at a woody shrub or tree, the first thing to note is whether or not the leaves grow alternately or opposite one another on the branch. Our opposite “friends” in Willamette riparian zones are SAM & TED (Snowberry, Ash, Maple, Twinberry, Elderberry, & Dogwood). Another clue to help ID is whether the leaves are simple or compound. Students also learned the difference between similar looking sedges, rushes, and grasses. They learned the mnemonic for remembering their differences: sedges have edges (on the stem), rushes are round, and grasses are… we didn’t have one for grasses, so students decided that “grasses have mustaches” would be a good one to start using (mustaches referring to the ligule that grasses have, and I am now obligated to point out that not all grasses have ligules, unfortunately).

The “mustache” of the grass to FGHS students (also known as the ligule)

After exploring and working so hard, students then enjoyed a nice treat and spent their last few minutes at the site, reflecting on their work by writing articles, reflections, poetry, and sketching about their experience at Gales Creek. These will be compiled in a newsletter to distribute to neighbors and residents living next to Gales Creek so they can learn about the hard work Forest Grove High School has been doing.

We at SOLVE have enjoyed working with Forest Grove High School this year, and we are very impressed with the positive impact they have made on their community!

Thank you, Clean Water Services, for funding this project!