King Elementary is Bugging Out!

Written by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest member Charlie

The amazing Green Team from King Elementary visited Abernethy on Friday to take a look at how their hard work on the creek has been paying off for the health of the stream. They did this by taking a look at a sample of macroinvertebrates living in the stream. Macroinvertebrate is essentially a fancy scientific term that more or less means “bug.” Pollutions in streams and rivers are very transient in that they might be constantly changing, and chemical tests aren’t always reliable for getting a feel for how unhealthy the water in a stream is. But, the animals living in the stream are affected by any pollution that may flow down, so looking at who is crawling along the bottom of Abernethy Creek can give us an idea of how healthy it is. Restoration Ecologists, like the students in the King Elementary Green Team, know that some macroinvertebrates like mayflies, stoneflies, and caddisflies are more sensitive to pollution than others, so we were hoping to see some of these six-legged friends in our sample. And… we did! Students found some specimens of small minnow mayflies and case making caddisflies, an exciting sight! Students also found some water boatmen, aquatic earthworms, a scud, water mites, among many other kinds of invertebrates.

It was great to see some pollution sensitive macroinvertebrates are living in Abernethy creek, but since most of the inverts we did find were more pollution tolerant, there is still need for improving the Abernethy watershed to improve the health of the water. I know that work that the King Elementary Green Team has been doing on this site will make a lasting positive impact on the watershed. The trees and shrubs they have planted and have been maintaining will grow nice and tall, providing that much-needed shade, and bank stability for the creek, making the water nicer for more aquatic bugs to join in on the invertebrate party that’s going down at Abernethy.

King Elementary Keeps Abernethy Green

Why is Abernethy Creek in Oregon City looking so great? Did a leprechaun stop by this weekend to cause mischief to the invasive plants? Are the nice new piles of dirt under each plant a freshly dug hiding place for gold? I suppose you could say all that is true… On Friday, a whole class of leprechauns, the Green Team from King Elementary in Oregon City, visited Abernethy Creek to play some shenanigans on the unwanted plants growing there. These short people got a lot of work done mulching the native plants that had been planted this winter. While there may not be actual gold buried under each of these plants, this mulch is as valuable as gold for them. It not only provides a nice organic layer that will keep the plants’ roots moist in the summer when things dry out, but it also suppresses invasive plants from growing right next to each native plant. Without this mulch the invasives would be able to steal resources like sunshine, water, and nutrients from the small natives.

Despite the short amount of time they were out there, the hard-working students at King Elementary did a lot of work, and Abernethy Creek has never looked better. Thanks guys!

King Elementary: Keeping plants from being beaver snacks!

Last Friday on the 3rd, King Elementary embarked on a journey to save the young saplings from the hungry beaver inhabitants at Abernethy  Creek. Last time the Green Team visited, they helped plant willow trees to help hold onto the eroding soil at Abernethy. This time, the students were very excited to put up beaver cages around the young trees they staked in the previous visit. By setting up the cages, the hungry beavers are unable to gnaw away the young trees, thus protecting them from harm. These cages encourage the beavers to chew on more developed trees instead of the saplings. The students also got to see a great example of how much the beavers actually chew away the bark on a Douglas fir tree, and it showed them the reason why we  need to cage the young trees. Right away they got a lot of the saplings caged and protected from the beavers. They worked their very hardest and did a great job! They are just one step closer in bettering the ecosystem at Abernethy Creek.

Written by guest blogger and SOLVE volunteer, Gavin.

King Elementary Stakes Responsibility for Healthy Streams

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This Friday, the 13th, Abernethy Creek was very lucky as King Elementary’s Green Team decided to come out and help restore the stream. On this grey January afternoon, these eager students came out to the site to plant some trees. Gavin, a volunteer from Gladstone High School, showed the group that some riparian trees and shrubs can be propigated and planted by simply cutting a fresh branch off a mature tree, and sticking it in the ground. So this day, the task was to mallet over 100 stakes, made from freshly harvested willow branches, into the bare soil along Abernethy Creek. These willow stakes will immediately put out a nice network of roots which will really grip that soil and prevent sediment from washing into the stream. They will also grow nice and tall, providing that nice cool shade for the creek. The King Elementary students got right to work, along with the help from some other volunteers from Clackamas High School, and were able to get all of the stakes in, and then some! In a short time, Abernethy should have a nice new grove of healthy willow trees thanks to the hard work of these hardworking kids!

King Elementary and Friends Be-leafing in the Future

Last Friday, there was a lot of activity going on at Abernathy creek. Our special Green Team at King Elementary showed up ready to get some work done as usual but joining them this time to help out were several students from Clackamas High School’s AP Environmental Sciences classes as well as a few from the Clackamas Academy of Industrial Science Green Team!

This week, King Elementary came out with their usual gusto and enthusiasm to help us plant some trees! Much needed planting so it was a good thing we had so much help. (Not to mention, when digging holes, it makes things easier to have people who weigh more than 80 lbs helping…) These ash and willow trees we planted will be really important for the future of the Abernathy Creek watershed as their tall branches will provide much-needed shade, keeping the water nice and cold, and their roots will hold onto the soil, preventing sediment from washing into the creek.

And speaking of warm sediment-loaded water… While this is bad for the Abernathy Creek ecosystem, we discovered that it can taste delicious to people! So for all of their hard work in the cold  weather, SOLV treated all of our volunteers to a nice warm cup of hot dirty water! Okay, okay, okay, so it wasn’t truly dirt from our stream banks students were enjoying in their hot water, but one could argue that hot chocolate mix is a kind of sediment…

Abernathy Creek thanks all of the wonderful students, teachers, parents, and chaperones who came out to help for all of your hard work!

A connected green team community

Green Teamers from King Elementary School visited Abernethy Creek for the first time this school year to help us protect some newly planted native trees and shrubs with coffee bags.  Together with Charlie(SOLV), Gavin a Gladstone High School senior who is volunteering to lead our King Elementary students on their monthly outings to Abernethy Creek, instructed students on proper coffee bagging techniques while also reminding students why this stream enhancement project is so important for water quality and wildlife habitat.

The coffee bags are donated to us from Boyd’s Coffee Company.  The bags are made out of a grass called Jute, which biodegrades in a few years.  We lay them on either side of our newly planted natives to shade out invasive weeds from around the plantings.

Many students from the Clackamas Academy of Industrial Science Green Team joined us and worked alongside the younger students!  Green Team staff were so proud to have students representing three Green Team schools all volunteering together after school on their own time!

Thank you King Elementary, Gladstone High and Clackamas Academy of Industrial Science students!

King Elementary Prepares for the Field

Last Friday SOLV was excited to meet with its only elementary school Green Team with King Elementary of Oregon City. Joining SOLV was volunteer, Gavin from Gladstone High School, who not only was a member of Gladstone’s Green team last year but will be working with King Elementary’s Green Team for his senior project. In the (seemingly short) hour that we worked with them, we discussed why when looking at stream health, it is important to consider the entire watershed, what makes a stream healthy and why some of our local urban streams are unhealthy, and the ways that the King Elementary Green Team will help make one of our local unhealthy streams (Abernathy Creek) healthy once more. Then the students broke into groups and drew up some more examples of healthy streams vs. unhealthy streams. Finally Gavin closed up our hour with a wonderful story about the salmon cycle in healthy streams.

We are so excited to have King Elementary joining us for another year, and can’t wait to get in the field with them!