It’s Macro Season!

Photos and text by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Norhtwest AmeriCorps members Lauren McKenna and Nicole Poletto

Donning thigh-high waders, students collected (and returned) life from the creek to assess how healthy it is, and look at all the cool bugs!

Four Wednesdays worth of removing invasive teasel, blackberry and reed canarygrass, touring Willow Creek, laying down coffee bags to prevent invasives and 24 rounds of macroinvertebrate surveys!  During Rachel Carson’s last visits to Willow Creek for the school year (the 6th and 7th graders will be back in the fall!), they got to return to the “old” site where their school started working at with SOLVE back in 2004.  About 90% of the native plants at the large site were planted by current and past Rachel Carson students!  The creek is in good shape, lined with willows and Douglas spirea, home to herons and newts.

REALLY BIG Dragonfly larvae!

REALLY BIG Dragonfly larvae!

Check out the photos from each of their four visits!

Wildlife students found:

Rotation #1 (4/3/2013)

Rotation #2 (4/10/2013)

Rotation #3 (4/17/2013)

Rotation #4 (5/8/2013)

Now, let’s take a look at the first of 20 visits to Willow Creek!  Photos and haikus from Rachel Carson’s first SOLVE day of the school year on Sept. 26, 2012:

Backyard wildlife nearDSC_0574

Learning working helping all

Health for years to come

– Kim S.




The breeze through the air,

The sun beating on our backs,

The joy of hard work.

– Cecilee Henstrom


Blackberry removal needs teamwork!

So many changes,

I am proud of what I’ve done

I’ve made a difference.





One group of people

In a small ecosystem

Making a big change

– Annonymous


Macroinvertebrate survey with Mr. Gibson.

Willow Creek

Is a wonder to us all

Let’s all enjoy it





Here at Willow Creek

Beautiful land surrounds me

Happy to restore

– Leslie

THANK YOU to all the Rachel Carson students who have been ALWAYS enthusiastic, the teachers who make this happen and the chaperons who are always ready for anything — and any weather!  Rain AND shine … it’s been a blast!  Thank you for a great year; SOLVE looks forward to more next year!

SOLVE: Blazing a Trail for Volunteering!

Though the Trailblazers did not win last weekend’s game with the Dallas Mavericks, SOLVE won a moment in the spotlight!  Besides having sweet views of the game from a suite, SOLVE was honored to present Wells Fargo’s Executive Vice President, Don Pearson with a citizenship award for their active volunteerism.  SOLVE’s Interim Executive Director, John Tortorici was joined by Chloe Hanken in presenting the award.  Now at West View High School, Chloe is a former SOLVE Green Team student (Rachel Carson Environmental Middle School) and a current SOLVE Stream Team Captain Leader.  Way to go SOLVE!

Former Green Team studetn Chloe and SOLVE Interim Executive Director John Tortorici presenting the Citizenship Award to Wells Fargo's Executive Vice President Don Pearson, for their volunteerism.

Former Green Team student Chloe Hanken and SOLVE Interim Executive Director John Tortorici presenting the Citizenship Award to Wells Fargo’s Executive Vice President Don Pearson, for their volunteerism.

A World of Difference in 11,125 Square Feet

Text and photos by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Northwest AmeriCorps Members Lauren McKenna and Nicole Poletto

Every Wednesday + no matter the weather + since October 2012 + 11,125 square feet of invasive blackberry cleared + 600 live dogwood and willow cuttings installed + 600 native trees and shrubs planted = A BIG DEAL!  Rachel Carson has spent their last 15 SOLVE days working at Willow creek near the corner of 173rd and Walker Road in Beaverton, Oregon and what a world of difference they have made! The site has gone from a dense and overwhelming spread of solid blackberry to a freshly planted plot filled with native common snowberryPacific ninebarkTall Oregon GrapethimbleberryRed Elderberry, Red Alder, Oceanspray, Red Osier Dogwood, SalmonberryVine maple, and Bigleaf maple.

They have spent that time not only removing invasive Armenian blackberry, but measuring parking lot runnoff, learning plant identicfication, drawing, writing and reflecting, composing poems and haikus, learning about how to inmprove their watershed, and the importnace of working together as a team to accomplish a common goal.

BEFORE on Day 1 

(Check out Rachel Carson’s first day here!)



Where’s the creek!? Can’t even see it yet!







AFTER on Day 15!




We did it!!!








Haiku for Rachel Carson

— by Green Team leader Lauren

Rain, shine, sleet, loppers,

Shovels, pots: ingredients

For a healthy creek!


This slideshow requires JavaScript.


And for the “thank you”s…

Thank you to Rachel Carson’s students for your energy and hard work!

Thank you to Rebecca Hall and the rest of Rachel Carson’s dedicated teachers and parents!

Thank you to SOLVE’s Grean Team Program Coordinator, Meghan Ballard, for making this happen and keeping us on track!

Thank you for your guidance… and the square footage, Nicole!

Thank you to Clean Water Services for the plants!

Thank you to Youngnak Presbyterian Church for allowing us to utilize your parking lot and have access to Willow Creek in order to restore it!


Welcome to Willow Creek, West View!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Former Rachel Carson Environmental Middle School student Chloe, now a SOLVE Stream Team Captain, is also part of her high school’s environmental club.  When she joined, of course she was excited about West View High School’s recycling program, but she wanted to see more.  “We don’t go outside!” And the remedy…. an after school Green Team!

Last week, the group (small, but mighty!) got to see the Willow Creek site that current Rachel Carson students have been working at, removing blackberry, planting native trees and shrubs as well as adding live willow stakes — all create bio-diverse habitat, strengthen the stream bank, help filter runoff better, and create shade for the creek.  The group planted a few plants and took a tour!

Thank you, Chloe and your group for offering to help out!!! You rock!

Dig In! Dig Up!

Photos and text by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Northwest member Lauren McKenna

@ Willow Creek, 2/13/2013

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“Find your place on the planet. Dig in, and take  responsibility from there.”

~Gary Snyder

Rachel Carson spent what was probably the nicest day in a long time planting 80 native plants (and identifying them…correctly!), learning about bioengineering, installing live willow cuttings and removing invasive blackberry.  A few students took to the task of watering some of the plants farthur from the creek, thanks to our drier weather.  Now that it has been about 4 months since they began working at this site, everything is coming into clear focus: hundreds of native plants and dozens of willow cuttings will begin to provide shade and denser root structures to prevent the creek side from eroding into the creek.

Thank you, Rachel Carson, for your enthusiam!

The Stakes are High…. at Willow Creek!

Text and photos by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Northwest Members Lauren McKenna and Nicole Poletto

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Willows saving Willow Creek!

At Willow Creek, Rachel Carson students have now begun to install willow cuttings into the hillside adjacent to the creek.  The addition of Pacific, Scouler’s and Sitka Willow (Salix lucida, S. scouleriana, and S. sitchensis) will eventually provide shade and habitat to Willow Creek.  Installing live cutting of these willows will be especially important in reducing erosion.  Since the cuttings are in a dormant phase, they will put most of their energy into creating a root structure that will hold down the soil.

After installing dozens of cuttings as well as planting 97 native shrubs, the students wrote notes to a Japanese school (whose students are about the same age as the Rachel Carson Students) that raised money for SOLVE’s Tsunami Debris Response program.  The students not only wrote thank you’s, but also wrote about what they have been up to at Willow Creek.  Their notes were sent to the school!


Thank you for all your hard work, Rachel Carson.  You ROCK!

Willow Creek’s Blackberry Crew!

Text and photos by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Northwest Member Lauren McKenna

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Rachel Carson Environmental Middle School @ Willow Creek 1/23/2013

On yet another frosty morning, Rachel Carson came to Willow Creek…this time to tackle the giant monster of a pile of blackberry!!!!  Thanks to helped of the SOLVE staff who moved most of it earlier this week, it took no time at all to move this montrosity in order to continue planting.  Unfortunately, the ground was still frozen when the students arrived, but it did thaw out enough to plant 12 Red Alders on the hillside.  We’d estimate the students moved about 8 cubic yards of blackberry brambles!  Wow!

We also had some great winners of our Plant ID Challenge, now in its fourth week! One group scored 100%…. I see some future botanists!

Great work Rachel Carson.  You ROCK!

Native Plant Heroes!

Text and photos by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Northwest Members Lauren McKenna and Nicole Poletto

Rachel Carson Environmental Middle School @ Willow Creek 1/16/2013

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“One more root, ONE MORE ROOT!”

Not your usual cheer among a class of middle school students. But this is not your usual bunch of middle school students. These students brave the wind, rain, snow, ice and cold to care for their dear Willow Creek. So far, they have cleared a solid hunk of invasive, spiky, icky Armenian blackberry, and have planted over 200 native trees and shrubs (40 this time!), like Red Osier Dogwood and Snowberry.


Gently giving this dogwood a new home!

One favorite part of the process, besides getting head-to-boot muddy, is naming their newly planted shrubs friends.  This week’s theme seemed to be “Famous action movie heroes ”  One vine maple (Acer circinatum) is now know as “Bilbo Baggins“, and a baby dogwood (Cornus sericea) bear the name “Chewbacca” (because dogwoods look sort of exactly like him!), and another “Liam Neeson.”  As long as we remember what species they are… !  Pretty soon, Bilbo and Chewbacca will be the real heroes of Willow Creek, providing shade and preventing erosion.

Thank you again, Rachel Carson!

The Mud Kids!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Text and photos by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Northwest Members Lauren McKenna and Nicole Poletto

RCEMS @ Willow Creek 1/9/13

Rain and wind are NEVER things that prevent Rachel Carson Environmental Middle School from working with SOLVE at their creek site. EVER. It’s January, in Oregon, but these hardy kids are still here, digging up blackberry roots and planting native trees and shrubs. With their upbeat mood and string work ethic, they have bascially cleared the way for 600 native plants to be planted at Willow Creek… a feat for sure! And MUD? Also never an issue!

Muddy hands and muddy pants: the sign of a hard day's work!

Muddy hands and muddy pants: the sign of a hard day’s work!

After a very muddy day, besides continuing to remove invasive Armenian blackberry (Rubus armeniacus), they planted 74 native dogwoods, ninebark, alder, vine and big leaf maples, Oregon grape, and more! Student were quizzed on indentifying these plants correctly and won prizes for those who could correctly name all the plants!

Students also found some creative uses for mud:
-makes you look tough
-walking in mud is good excercise
-muddy clothes make laundry an exciting challenge
-getting your boots stuck in mud is also a fun challenge
-can be used to put hand prints
-makes a great face mask
-great as a natural face paint
-makes great fake mustaches

Thank you for your hard work and genuine love of mud! Willow Creek is lookin’ good, thanks to you!

Oh Come Let Us Plant!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Written by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Northwest Members Lauren McKenna and Nicole Poletto

Finally! The area of Willow Creek where Rachel Carson has been working for weeks is ready to be planted!  Though there is still more work, there is now a clear area to plant native Oregon Grape, Red Alder, Big Leaf Maple, Snowberry, Ninebark, Red Elderberry, and more.  By the end of the day, Riley  Leonard (names given to the plants by students) and 97 other native plants had new homes by Willow Creek.

Tall Oregon Grape.... dressed in red and green for  the holidays!

Tall Oregon Grape…. dressed in red and green for the holidays!

Of course, clear ground also means lots of mud!  Hence why we need to get those native plants in the ground…to hold down the soil and prevent erosion   For the meantime, the mud was pretty fun.  Muddy pants = a day’s hard work!  Nicole (SOLVE) almost won muddiest pants!

Over the past few weeks, the students had been drawing some of their favorite native plants.  We created a native plant guide from their drawings that they have been using to identify plants.  During this SOLVE day, the students who identified all the plants correctly, as well as named plant parts, won a SOLVE pin!  A great way to show support for Green Team!

Great job, Rachel Carson!  Thank you!