Green Team West Side Summit!

This years Green Team West Side Summit was a true success! Becca, Nicole and I are incredibly proud of all of our Green Team classes and are very thankful to everyone who donated food to our event including Noodles & Company, Einstein Bagels and Voodoo Donuts.


The event began in the morning at Valley Catholic High School and around 250 students were in attendance. After a quick snack, students took their seats in the auditorium and the presentations began.  First, Lori Hennings, a senior natural resource scientist Metro, gave an inspiring speech connecting students work on Green Team to the environmental as a whole. We are all so grateful to have had her as the keynote presenter. Then, each school presented on a different aspect of the Green Team year that they found important and explored an aspect of stream restoration in depth.

City View Charter talked about the native birds of Council Creek and even played the bird calls so that we could hear what they sound like.  Valley Catholic High School students talked in depth about macro invertebrate surveys and mulching. Forest Grove High School and Aloha High School both performed inspiring skits about the ensuing drama between invasive and native plants at Gales Creek and Butternut Creek. Glencoe High School presented about the evolving state of McKay Creek. Rachel Carson Environmental Middle School presented on William Greer’s bee box project at Willow Creek and showed pictures of how Willow Creek has evolved due to the continued efforts of Green Team. Finally, we showed a video of Tobias Elementary schooler students singing “The Eight Days of SOLVE” and Forest Park Elementary School’s video titled “How to Plant”.   Both video can be viewed on the SOLVE Green Team website.

Overall, the event was informative for all in attendance and the day was rounded out with more snacks and lunch! I am so proud of each and every one of my students and was overwhelmed with the amount of positive feedback that came my way during the presentation.

Great job this year West Side schools, I will truly miss working with you all!


Dane Breslin

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



Willow Stakes and Winter Snow

Green Team Week December 2nd to the December 6th

Written by Jesuit Volunteers Dane Breslin and Becca Strohm

A Shout-out to our Green Team students who work at Beaver Creek!  This article was in the Gresham Outlook this past week.

coho return

East Side Sites

West Linn High School @ Clackamas-Willamette Confluence December 3rd and 4th

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West Linn students in Mr. Hartmann and Bingham’s classes came out to do some native planting at the Clackamas-Willamette Confluence.  First students learned a little bit about plant identification for our native species.  Different plant parts can help you distinguish between plants including the terminal bud, lateral buds and lenticels.  Lenticels are pores on the steam which allow for gas exchange, depending on the plant they can be more distinct.  The lateral buds are the most common way to distinguish trees because they are all quite distinct and in different patterns.

Unfortunately, for the first class on Wednesday, the little saplings were frozen in their pots. We did our best to ‘hug’ them and heat them up.  By the second class, the day had warmed up significantly and the plants were more easily removed from their pots.

Thank you for your enthusiasm and flexibility West Linn!

Overall West Linn planted 165 plants!  Thanks for a great job West Linn students!

La Salle High School @ Phillips Creeks December 4th and 5th

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La Salle students planted 100 native trees and shrubs at Phillips Creek this week.  Despite the cold, students were able to dig holes and with a little coaxing get our native plants out of their frozen buckets.  Students also learned a little plant identification skills including our friends SAM and TED which are our native trees and shrubs that have opposite lateral bud arrangement.  These include snowberry, ash, maple, twinberry, elderberry and dogwood.  While planting we perfected the perfect sized hole by finding a basketball and laying it inside insuring our hole was basketball sized.  La Salle students also picked up a bunch of trash lying around Philips Creek.  Thanks for your dedication in the cold La Salle students!

West Linn High School @ Clackamas-Willamette Confluence December 5th

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West Linn students came out for a final day on Thursday but it was so cold the night before the ground was frozen over.  This made planting our native trees and shrubs too difficult so instead students did some invasive removal and litter clean-up.  Students found a few tires, a soccer ball and a bunch of other litter clearing 50 lbs of trash.  There was also lopping of blackberry and some pulling of ivy.  Great job West Linn and thanks for your enthusiasm!


Glencoe High School at McKay Creek

Monday 12/2 and Tuesday 12/3

This Monday and Tuesday, Glencoe High school installed over three hundred and sixty Red Osier Dogwood stakes. Each stake contains a growth hormone that gives it the potential to one day become a full grown Dogwood!

The classes first learned how to prepare live stakes. The steps are listed below.

1)      Harvest up to ¼ of an adult Red Osier Dogwood, or Willow.

2)      Cut branches into 2 foot long segments. Make sure that the bottom is cut at an angle, so that the stake will move into the ground easier.  The top should be flat, making the stake easier to mallet.

3)      Remove any side branches or buds from the stake. All energy in the stake must go towards developing root structures, not buds and leaves.

4)      Attach pink tape to make locating plants later easier.

5)      Find a wet area and mallet the stake halfway into the ground.  Place within one foot of each other to more effectively shade out the invasive Reed Canary Grass.

Glencoe installed stakes in several different areas behind their school building. The hope is that by spring forests of Dogwood will battle with Reed Canary Grass, hold onto loose soils, and create new habitats for native animal life.  After each class, students drank warm cups of hot cocoa and worked on reflections for Honoring Our Rivers!  It has been a joy serving with Glencoe this year and the changes we have made to McKay Creek are already visible!

Thank you for all your hard work.

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City View Charter School at Council Creek

Thursday 12.5

This Thursday, City View Charter School braved the cold and learned how to make and propagate Willow stakes at Council Creek.  We started above the creek with a Willow stake making class.  Then, the students worked in pairs down in the wetland to break through the frozen ground and install the stakes they made.  Even though it was freezing cold, the sun did come out and the landscape quite literally glittered with frost and snow.  City View installed around sixty Willow and Dogwood stakes and then headed back to the class to complete a reflection on bioengineering and planting this semester.

I am so proud of this class’s hard work and amazed at their vigor for environmental restoration (even when the weather is trying).

To all of my classes this week I want to thank you and wish you a happy holiday season!

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Dreaming of spring & loving the snow,


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.

You Go, Glencoe!

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

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During Glencoe High School’s last SOLVE day at McKay Creek for this school year, lots happened.  Here’s a glimpse:

Students took a post SOLVE survey and quiz, in which they got scored 37% higher than on the quiz they took at the beginning of the year.  Way to go!

They also mulched about 300 native trees and shrubs… that THEY planted.  These plants will now retain water over the dry summer months and provide habitat, filter runoff, stabilize the soil and provide shade for McKay.  One student said we were putting the “ashes of their ancestors (mulch = ground up Douglas-fir trees) on them, but they will help the babies (newly planted native plants) survive!

And because summer also means the return of the invasives, some students chopped down reed canarygrass — which is quickly beginning to tower over the native plants — and untangled native plants from the vine-y, invasive Morning Glory.

Lastly, we all celebrated with DONUTS!  Everyone loves donuts, and thanks to Sesame Donuts, Glencoe’s Green Team gained back some of the calories they burned working hard at McKay!  Thank you Sesame Donuts for your generous donation!

And thank you to Richard Stanley, Linda Wolf and all the wonderful Glencoe students for your openness, dedication to the environment, and for welcoming me to your school.  I had a blast and hope you stay involved with your community!

Damsel(fly)s in Distress!

Photos and text by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest AmeriCorps Member Lauren McKenna

Glencoe High School April 2013

No, we did not find any damsels in distress, but Glencoe students did find lots of Damselfly larvae in McKay Creek!

During their April SOLVE outing doing macroinvertebrate surveys, students found water striders, LOTS of spiders, giant dragonfly larvae, water mites, snails and even a cased caddisfly (yay!) and TONS of damselfly larvae (suborder Zygoptera) were wriggling about (“salsa dancing“, as one student put it!) trying to wash water and oxygen past its gills.  Damselflies as adults are pretty similar to adult dragonflies, though a little smaller, and are predators who feed on things like mosquito larvae.  In their nymph (baby, juvenile) stage, they live in the water and are actually pretty pollution tolerant.

While some students explored the creek (some of who returned with very wet feet), some explored another fun activity: eating dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) leaves… foraging for the win!  All parts of the dandelion are edible — roots, shoots, leaves, flowers — and there are lots of great recipes for this tasty, albeit underappreciated, weed.  Check out for some dandelion recipes before the season is over!

Thanks for the fun!  And thank you to Richard Stanely and Linda Wolf for the extra macroinvertebrate supplies!

4 Classes, 600 stakes, 1 Healthier Creek!

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Glencoe High School is at it again!

Last week, Linda Wolf and Richard Stanley’s classes installed 600 live spirea, willow and dogwood cuttings at McKay Creek behind their school!  There are many live cuttings that were installed just one year ago that are already getting leaves!Amazing! They also did some sprucing up of the blackberry covered hill and finished planting some baby native plants.  GREAT JOB!

It was also a beautiful day to roam through the forest and soak up some sun!

Oh Dogwood Shrub, Oh Dogwood Shrub, How Lovely are Your Branches!

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Photos and text by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Northwest Member Lauren McKenna

Oh dogwood shrub, oh dogwood shrub,

How lovely are your branches.

We’ll cut them down,

But they will grow,

Into a whole new shrub, you know!

Oh dogwood shrub, oh dogwood shrub

How lovely are your branches.

 Yes, it’s true!  When Mr. Stanley and Ms. Wolf’s Glencoe High School students went to McKay Creek last week, they probably did not think they would be chopping down native plants.  These students found themselves chopping down large Red Osier and Pacific dogwood branches and turning them into magic sticks (aka pole cutting, live stake…) that they trimmed to size and installed in both the hillside near their track and out in the wetter part of the creek’s riparian area.  A couple douglas spirea stakes starred in the show as well!

Despite muddy conditions, about 50 stakes were installed, as well as a few more native plants planted and part of the hillside cleared of Armenian blackberry.  You go Glencoe!  Our hope is that these dogwood stakes (many that were installed a year ago are growing and looking great) will survive and create shade and stabilize the soil.

Thank you, Glencoe, for your commitment so far to McKay Creek!  And here’s a very relevant joke before you all go on winter break:

Q: How can you tell that a tree is a dogwood tree?

A: By its bark!

Plant 200 native plants? No problem for Glencoe High School!

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Photos and text by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Northwest Member Lauren McKenna

Glencoe HS @ McKay Creek 11/29,30/2012

Five Glencoe High School biology classes geared up for rain and mud to plant 217 trees and shrubs at McKay Creek!  They probably did not know they would plant that much either!  Despite quick-mud (as students called the super goopy mud, like quick sand), water up to their knees (in the wetland area, of course!) and with plenty of time to explore the area, a lot of work got done, and a lot of fun!

Nestled in a corner of the school’s grounds by their track, this site had once been invasive blackberry, over your head, tangle-y morning glory strangling plants, and reed canary grass choking what native plants were there.  After just one year since Glencoe has been working there, the blackberry has been cleared out and native plants, planted last year, are thriving.  The addition of the over 200 native trees and shrubs, including Western Red Cedar, Black Twinberry, Red Elderberry, Douglas Spirea, and Red Osier Dogwood, will help stabilize the soil, filter runoff, and provide shade and wildlife habitat.

While planting, students got to take a walk through their forest and learn some plant I.D. tips.  For example, Red Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa), a terrific shrub with bumpy bark, large pinnately-compound leaves that are arranged oppositely and large lenticels (pores in the bark), is often confused with Blue Elderberry.  Though a little more rare, there is a beautiful Blue Elderberry at the entrance on Glencoe’s trail.  If you find berries on it during the summer, don’t eat them!  They contain a chemical that if eat, can induce the production of cyanide, which is definitely toxic!  However, elderberries are often prepared into jams and wines and some people make syrup from the flowers, as cooking them makes them edible.  Besides their delicious edible qualities, elderberries provide shrubby habitat and food for animals.

Blue Elderberry (at Glencoe!): Sambucus cerulea

Blue Elderberry sighting at Glencoe!             Sambucus cerulea

As each class pulled off their muddy gloves and trudged back to school, they were still excited about planting at McKay:

“We planted 20!”

“You planted a tree! Whooo!”

“SOLVE days are my favorite school days.  I look forward to them.”

Thank you to Mr Stanley and Ms. Wolf’s classes.  You did an awesome job!  And thank you Mr. Stanley for your wisdom about mushrooms!

Good Morning, Glory!

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Written by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Northwest Member Lauren McKenna

Glencoe High School @ McKay Creek, 10/19/2012

Glencoe High School students are lucky to have a forested area right on their campus.  More like, they are lucky to have so much work to do right on their campus!  One area has invasive Armenian blackberry and another, by their field, is overrun by Morning glory (there are over 1,000 in the family Convolvulaceae!).  What needs to be done to save McKay Creek is to save the native plants that students planted there last year from the creeping, twiney, viney, suffocating, strangling morning glory!

Solanum dulcamara: Bittersweet nightshade, another invasive plant found at McKay Creek, has poisonous berries and stinky bark.  It has a toxin called solanine; it's leaves and unripe berries are even more poisonous than the deceivingly delicious-looking red berries.

Solanum dulcamara: Bittersweet nightshade, another invasive plant found at McKay Creek, has poisonous berries and stinky bark. It has a toxin called solanine; it’s leaves and unripe berries are even more poisonous than the deceivingly delicious-looking red berries.

After reviewing what makes up a healthy riparian zone (the land near the creek), students helped to unwind morning glory from around native Big Leaf maples, Snowberries and Dogwoods.  Some found bittersweet nightshade, which we bagged so it would not spread more.  Others found giant clumps of morning glory wound around reed canarygrass growing through blackberry.  “I found an invasive wrapped around another invasive, growing through an invasive!” one student exclaimed.  Some more vocal frustrations…

“ARR! My hands are stuck in morning glory!”

“Hey let’s go, class is over”, “I can’t.  I’m trying to free a tree from morning glory!”

Though, there is a TON of more to do at McKay Creek, but a lot of native trees and shrubs are much happier because your hard work!