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.

Plants, shovels, friends…what more do you need?!

Photos and text by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Northwest Member Lauren McKenna

Mountain View Middle School @ Beaverton Trib 12/14/2012

Mountain View went back to “Karper Creek” (really a tributary of Beaverton Creek, lovingly named after their teacher, Mr. Karper) to spend some time in “Gnarnia” ( a little spot by the creek under a tree), plant 30 natives and remove invasives, get muddy, and hang out with their friends.  They also removed some Armenian blackberry from the hillside and added mulch to the plant they had planted last month.  A few lucky students won SOLVE pins for correctly identifying the native shrubs we planted, too!

The day did not involve a lot of rain, but it was very soggy near the creek.  Planting native shrubs will not only add crucial habitat for wildlife, but also stabilize the soil and prevent all this muddy erosion.  Seeing many aspect of riparian restoration seems to have had a positive effect on the Mountain View students.  After their very full day, we asked them to think about their time at the creek so far…..

“The creek looks a lot better than it did when we first came here.”

“I slipped in the creek

But I enjoyed working with it

It was a great experience

It was beneficially worth the time”

(Mountain View students)

Right after the students, parents and Mr. Karper left, a couple living in the neighborhood mentioned how grateful they are to have the students working to make the creek healthier.  Lots of compliments!

Thank you, Mountain View for your dedication!  See you in the new year!

Mountain View plants Beaverton Creek’s future!

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Text and photos by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Northwest Member Lauren McKenna

Mountain View Middle School @ Beaverton Creek Tributary 11/16/2012

Mountain View Middle School, home of a VERY enthusiastic Green Team, went out last week to plant along their site, a tributary of Beaverton Creek (which they like to call Karper Creek after their teacher, Mr. Karper).  Before planting they learned some plant ID skills, like looking at leaf shape (which is suuuper helpful in the late fall when most plants don’t even have their leaves anymore!).  Leaves are either simple (one undivided leaf) or compound (multiple divided leaflets), pinnate (one common vein) or palmate (veins like a hand with fingers)……

After, the twenty students planted 72 shrubs like Douglas Spirea (Spiraea douglasii) and Tall Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquilfolium)!

Tall Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium)

Douglas spirea (Spiraea douglasii)

They placed the Oregon Grape along a hill side, where it is drier.  The spirea went down closer to the creek, where it will thrive in a wetter and sunnier area; in the spring, spirea (part of the Rose family) is known for it’s fluffy, pink flowers that attract butterflies.  Oregon Grape, our great Oregon State Flower, has  bright yellow flower and spiky leaflets that some may say look like English Holly (an invasive plant!).  Some ways to differentiate between the two are that Oregon Grape has slightly less spiky, pinnately compound leaves and edible blue berries, while holly has simple leaves that are much sharper and poisonous berries that range yellow to red. And what better way to welcome each plant to the creek than naming them!  From Edgar to Count Leopold, many of the baby native shrubs have names fit for royalty!  Hopefully Albert the Oregon Grape enjoys his new home!

Good work, Mountain View!  Thank you for your dedication to and for taking care of Beaverton Creek!

The Chronicles of “Gnarnia”…

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Written by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Northwest Member Lauren McKenna

Mountain View Middle School @ Beaverton Trib 10/19/2012

In a land far away, where an unnamed creek flows under a neighborhood and is overrun by thorny blackberry briers, twisting vines and choking grasses, a small but mighty group of students, bounded together by heart, courage and wisdom, fought gallantly to conquer the evil forces of invasive plants and bring about the goodness of plants native to the land of “Gnarnia”! 

Mountain View Middle School returned to a small tributary of Beaverton Creek (that they like to call “Karper Creek” after their teacher) to remove invasive plants and uncover native trees and shrubs that will create shad for the creek, prevent the banks from eroding  filter urban runoff, and provide habitat for wildlife.  Some students had worked on a small bridge that crosses the creek to a part of the Riparian Zone (the area of land near the creek) they like to call “Gnarnia” (spelled with a “g”, they were very particular about naming the area they were working at)!

As part of their efforts to save Gnarnia / Karper Creek / Beaverton Creek Tributary, students cut down and remove invasive Armenian blackberry, Morning glory, Fireweed and Reed canarygrass that had been growing over the native Nootka roses and Douglas spirea.  Huge piles of dying invasive were all that were left…and native plants, of course, that are now breathing a little easier.

Thanks for all your hard work and enthusiasm, Mountain View!

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!

Read All About It!

Written by Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest Member, Gina Graziano

Karper Creek is being restored, and we’re going to shout it! Read all about it!

When a group of Middle Schoolers like the one from Mt. View Middle School spend a few hours restoring their nearby creek every month with such enthusiasm, humor, and positivity, we at SOLVE think its worth shouting about!

Students at Mt View Middle have spent one Friday a month planting native trees and shrubs, removing tons of blackberry, coffee bagging plants to protect them from Reed Canary Grass, mulching plants to keep them hydrated this summer and checking out the macroinvertebrates of the site to gain a sense of the water quality. Students have been hard at work.

During our last Green Team activity with Mt View Middle, we distributed newsletters the students wrote up to the community, educating them about the plants in the area, what they can do to help, and why a bunch of middle schoolers come to visit so often. Next, we looked at macroinvertebrates and while we did not find much, we did find some copepods! We were unsure what the very, very small, robotic-looking like bugs were at the time, but upon further investigation we have found them to be one of Plankton’s (the Sponge Bob character) family members! They have one compound, median single eye and use their second pair of antennae as their main source of propulsion.

We returned our macroinvertebrate sample to the creek and gathered together for lunch at our site. A student insisted he needed to grab something from around the corner and came back with pizzas he bought and had delivered to our site to celebrate all of our exciting outings.

Please take a moment to page through the students informative newsletter articles and inspiring reflections in the newsletter! We even have poets in this class who have been published in this year’s Honoring Our River Student Anthology. What an incredible class! Thank you, Mt. View Middle School, for your unbelievable enthusiasm, and contagious positivity. We at SOLVE have been so happy to spend Friday afternoons with you. Can’t wait to see you at the Green Team Student Summit!

Beaverton Creek Trib Newsletter

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

A Day at Karper Creek Beach

It may not seem as though March in Oregon would provide the ingredients for a warm, beach day but between the occasional bursts of sunshine, the buds of trees and shrubs appearing everywhere, and sand castles made out of mulch, we were practically on a sunny coast.

Students gathered to learn about the technique of mulching plants- that it will help to retain moisture in our warm, dry, summer months and keep our native trees and shrubs alive and happy. We put an entire bucket of mulch around each new, native tree or shrub and weeded out any invasive species from the surrounding area.

Students also planted a few more native trees and shrubs to shade our creek, stabilize our banks, and filter runoff from entering our waterway.

Lastly, we made leaf packs in old, recycled SOLVE bags, put them in the two pond areas of the site and secured them to a nearby tree. These leaf packs, full of leaves (you guessed it), twigs, grass, etc., will hopefully be attractive habitat to macroinvertebrates living in the stream. Our hope is that these macroinvertebrates will crawl into the holes of the bag so we can take a look at them when we examine the contents of the bag next time! Macroinvertebrates are a great way to gain a sense of the water quality in a stream. Certain macroinvertebrates (aquatic insects big enough to see with a naked eye) are very picky and only stand for the cleanest water while some really don’t care about having clean water. Which macroinvertebrates we find will give us a hint as to what kind of water we have in our creek.

While we were placing these bags out, we also found egg masses of a Pacific Chorus Frog. It will be exciting to see if we get a lot of tadpoles in the stream soon!


       The Pacific Chorus Frog can be distinguished from all other frogs within its geographic range by two characteristics: 1) the presence of toepads, and 2) a dark stripe that extends from just before the nostril, through the eye, and past the tympanum (ear). No other frogs found within the geographic range of the Pacific Chorus Frog have both of these characters.

As we wrapped up, built much- castles, and ate lunch we talked about how cool it would be to write a newsletter to educate the community on our work out at Beaverton Creek Tributary/ Karper Creek/ Mt View Middle Creek. We could tell everyone about why we have planted native trees and shrubs, why Reed Canary Grass and Armenian Blackberry are bad to keep around, and all of the neat findings such as the egg mass and eventually the results of our macroinvertebrate findings! Students volunteered to start writing bits of this newsletter. Feel free to email any pieces of the newsletter to or give them to Mr. Karper at any time! We are excited to see what everyone comes up with!

We may not have left with the best beach tan, but we definitely had fun and made a huge difference to our watershed.

Thank you to Clean Water Services for funding this project!