Rock Creek Middle School returns to Rock Creek!

Written by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest AmeriCorps member, Nicole Poletto

Rock Creek Middle School @ Rock Creek on 4.18.2013

Rock Creek Middle School is dedicated to restoring our watershed!

We spent the evening mulching some native species to help add nutrients to the soil and to suppress weeds.  These mulch “donuts” will also help the plant retain water in the warm summer months!  However, while mulching our native plants, it was impossible not to notice (and remove!) all of the invasive species that were creeping in.  Armenian Blackberry, Teasel, and Robert’s Geranium were some that we found – just to name a few!  At the end of the day, we took some time to reflect on our work at Rock Creek and how we help improve the health of our watershed for future generations.  We left feeling accomplished and excited for our next outing!

Mighty Rock Creek Middle School

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Written by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest member Nicole Poletto

Rock Creek Middle School @ Rock Creek Troge on 3.14.2013

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world” – Margaret Mead


Although few, Rock Creek Middle School is always excited and ready to steward Rock Creek!  With shovels in hand, we took down Blackberry and dug up lots of gnarly roots.  We also had time to chat about our native Red Currant and Oregon Grape before we planted 7 of them!  It was a productive day that will make Rock Creek healthier for generations to come!  Thank you for your dedication Rock Creek Middle School!

Rock Creek MS adopts Rock Creek!

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Written by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest member Nicole Poletto

Rock Creek Middle School @ Rock Creek on 2.21.2013

Rock Creek Middle School formed an after school Green Team club that would dedicate some of their time to taking ownership of Rock Creek down the street from their school.  SOLVE was excited by their enthusiasm and for their first outing to Rock Creek! 

We had a full afternoon of activities planned.  First, we played a game of riparian metaphors.  What is that you might ask?  Well, we pulled items out of a bag and came up with metaphors for what they might represent in a healthy riparian zone!  For example, sunglasses could be a metaphor for shade to keep the water cool and oxygenated.  We came up with clever metaphors for strainers, camouflage shirts, yogurt containers, bird houses, and more!

After we exhausted our creativity, we learned how to identify native plants by looking at their lateral bud arrangement.  For example, Red Flowering Currant has alternately arranged lateral buds while Snowberry is one of our opposite friends!  Once we could correctly identify the native plants waiting to go into the ground, we grabbed some Red Currant, Elderberry and Oregon Grape and planted 18 plants!!  Not only did we plant plants, but we also dug invasive Blackberry roots to give our plants a leg up on the competition.

As the sun went down it was time to call it a day – a very successful one at that.  See you next time Green Team!




SOLVE’s Annual Women in Science day will be held at Glen Otto Park in Troutdale on March 23rd from 9-1.  Girls – Are you interested in exploring a career in science? Come chat with mentors currently in the science field over breakfast!  In the afternoon we will be planting trees up the road at Beaver Creek!  Register online at :  See you there!

Who’s Crawling Up Rock Creek?

Last week, students from Rock Creek Middle School came out for their last visit to their eponymous creek to do some macroinvertebrate surveys. They had some help from another Green Team for their survey: students from Clackamas High School. Clackamas High School students have been doing macro surveys since October and they even gave an outstanding presentation on their findings from the past year at our Green Team East Side Student Summit, so the Rock Creek Middle School students could not have found better mentors for this activity. The Clackamas Green Team first talked about why doing macro surveys is important by explaining how this survey can give us a good indication to how healthy this creek actually is. They explained that it can be better to look at the invertebrate population in streams rather than looking at chemistry and temperature (which can frequently fluctuate). These bugs live in the stream all the time and are subject to these fluctuations. Since some types of invertebrates are very pollution sensitive and others are more pollution tolerant, looking at the types and numbers of invertebrates in the stream can give a fairly accurate indication of stream health. Then the Rock Creek students split off with their High School mentors to go see what they could find.

It was exciting for everybody because a lot of different kinds of macroinvertebrates were found including pollution sensitive ones like mayflies, stoneflies, and green rock worms, a kind of caddisfly! The presence of these indicate that the stream has not been too compromised by pollution. The restoration work that both Rock Creek Middle School and Clackamas High School have done on Rock Creek in planting natives, and removing invasive plants, all contribute to reducing the pollution flowing in the creek by reducing the amount of sediment, heat, and some chemical pollutants like heavy metals. During their last visit of the school year, it was nice to see that the effort that these students have done all year in trying to restore the Rock Creek Watershed is paying off in keeping the stream healthy.

SOLVE Green Team and the Rock Creek watershed thank you both Rock Creek Middle School and Clackamas for all of your hard work this year!

Thanks to Water Environmental Services for funding this project!

Rock Creek Middle School and the Tall Grass Smackdown

By SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest Member, Charlie

A lot of the work at our sites is suddenly becoming relevant as the skies are drying up and the grass is growing much longer. This was especially evident at Rock Creek on Monday when Rock Creek Middle School came out to help improve the riparian ecosystem.

When students got to the site, they noticed that the grass growing around the plants seemed to have grown a full foot in the week since they had visited the site two weeks ago. Already many of the plants that the Rock Creek Middle School Green Team had planted this winter were dwarfed by the grass and fighting for the precious sunlight. To encourage these young native plants to thrive and grow into a nice healthy riparian ecosystem, the Rock Creek Middle School students got right to work placing coffee bags around the base of the young native plants. These coffee bags are made of jute – a biodegradable grass – and when staked around our native plants, they suppress the resource-stealing grass from growing right next to the native plants. Students also spent some time mulching the recently coffee-bagged plants. As the weather continues to get drier, having a nice layer of mulch above the roots will be really helpful in preventing these young short-rooted plants from drying up before they really get established.

After they left the site, their hard work was evident: each native plant had their own growing and breathing (and photosynthesizing?) space, like a little sanctuary island in a sea of tall menacing grass. With their help this new site is definitely on the way to developing into a nice native habitat. Rock Creek thanks you, Rock Creek Middle School Green Team!

Happy Belated Earth Day Rock Creek!

A brand new trimester of energetic students from Rock Creek Middle School joined us today at Rock Creek.  Charlie(SOLVE) taught students all about why past students and community volunteers have worked so hard to plant native trees and shrubs along the creek, providing enhanced habitat and better water quality.  Students protected those new plantings with a fresh layer of Douglas Fir mulch.

Mulching our plantings is a critical part of the restoration process.  The mulch mimics growing conditions in a healthy riparian forest.  A healthy forest has a natural layer of ‘mulch’ (leaf litter and decaying organics, or duff layer) that provides a protective covering for immature plants.



  • An effective and safe way to reduce weeds.
  • Reduces evaporation resulting in less watering.
  • Keeps soil temperatures cooler in summer and warmer in winter.
  • Using organic mulches, results in the soil benefiting from addition of nutrients as the mulch decomposes. This helps create good soil structure as it greatly increases the biological activity in the soil (especially earth worms and other beneficial microbes).
  • Protects the soil surface from the compacting effect of rain.
  • Organic mulch decomposes over time and this benefits the soil by the addition of nutrients, especially nitrogen
Students also got a chance to critically think about all the benefits of a healthy riparian corridor by playing a Riparian Metaphors game.  Students partnered up and pulled out objects from a bag then worked together to think how that object represents a healthy riparian cooridor.
Some objects –
A piggy bank with leaves sticking out – Healthy riparian zones have vegetated banks!
A sponge – Healthy riparian zones act as a sponge for polluted stormwater.
A camo shirt – Healthy riparian zones can offer cover for animal escaping from predators
Thank you Rock Creek Middle School!
Thank you Clackamas County Water Environment Services for funding this project!

Rock Creek Middle School: Planting and Protecting Natives

On Monday, while most students might be groggily trying to readjust to the school day schedule from the weekend, our Rock Creek Middle School Green Team students had the opportunity to wake up in the beautiful February sunshine (something seems wrong with that last sentence…) Not to mention, they also got some great work done in their community.

When they arrived to the site, the enthusiastic students got right to work. While some students learned how to plant native riparian and wetland plants along the stream and began putting them in the ground, others were helping maintain the already planted plants by placing coffee bags around them. These coffee bags are biodegradable sacks that were used to transport raw coffee beans that were donated by coffee roasters for this cause. When placed around a plant, they will suppress invasive species from growing right next to these young natives and prevent them from stealing resources such as water, sunlight, and nutrients. Overall, nearly 40 plants were planted and many more were protected with coffee bags, an impressive feat for their brief visit to the site.

Thanks to these kids, Rock Creek is already looking more beautiful with the prospect of a healthy riparian zone!

Honoring Our Rivers

Reflection by Gabrielle, Grade 7 Rock Creek Middle School

Inspired by any of the rivers and streams in the Willamette watershed? Submit any written or drawn inspirations and maybe even see it published in Honoring Our Rivers, an anthology of student work from K-College. Today is your last day for submissions! Go here for more information.
We have been encouraging our students to take a break from their amazing hard work and reflect on their experiences at the sites. We have submitted a lot of the amazing work that they produced! The following are some of our favorite poems we’ve sent in, especially relating to Green Team and the work we do:
I am in nature
I am a line of water
Keep me very clean
~Sona, Grade 5, Forest Park Elementary School
Pulling and planting
We will conquer invasives
Rinearson will bloom
-Jamie, Grade 10, Gladstone High School
Help me clean the creek
And for all the plants to drink
And for the green grass
~Elizabeth, grade 7, Rock Creek Middle School
“Invasives!” We yell
As we charge the blackberries
Native trees will grow
Slashing and pulling
We conquer the invasives
And restore natives
Ferns and snowberries
Sit in the black pots, waiting,
SOLV will plant them all
~Rosyln, Grade 11, Gladstone High School

Rock Creek Rocks!

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This Monday as the Portland metro area was enjoying a break from the current dump of rain we’ve been experiencing, Rock Creek Middle School 7th graders enjoyed a nice break from their normal classroom routine. On this unexpectedly pleasant sunny day, nearly 40 Rock Creek Middle School Students arrived to help restore a degraded section of their eponymous Rock Creek.

This section very recently was a grassy slope that led right up to the stream. The shallow root system of the grass was not providing adequate stability for the stream bank, and there were few trees providing habitat and shade for the creek. A group of volunteers had come in earlier in the winter to plant over 100 native plants and trees in this area. However, unfortunately just planting the trees won’t be enough to fully restore this site; lots of maintenance is needed of these planted plants so that they become established and can survive in the long run. Today Rock Creek Middle School helped out with one such maintenance techniques: Coffee bagging. By staking down biodegradable sacks that once carried raw coffee beans around the base of each of these plants, Rock Creek students were helping suppress anything from growing right around these plants in the next several months. This gives these little guys a head start so that no grasses or fast growing forbes overcome the native plants, taking away resources like sunlight and water. After tucking the plants in for the rest of winter, we also sang a few of them a lullaby and told them bedtime stories (this last bit is not really necessary for restoration’s sake, but we like to think that it helped them become more comfortable in their new environment).

Students also spent some time reflecting on rivers and streams and composed some very nice reflections about their time both at Rock Creek and at other rivers. Here are a few amazing Haikus from yesterday:

Help me clean the creek
And for all the plants to drink
And for the green grass
~E. P.

Birds, birds everywhere
Chirping, singing songs
Wanting to hear me

Thanks Rock Creek for all of your hard work and your beautiful insights!

A Green Team shout out!

Clackamas High School Green Team!

Green Team staff love working with students and teachers from the North Clackamas School District… here’s a nice story about recent outings!

From the North Clackamas School District Newsletter:


For decades, SOLV has been on a mission to keep Oregon green.  Now the non-profit is partnering with three North Clackamas Schools to expand that mission into environmental learning.  In partnership with science teachers at Clackamas High, Rex Putnam High, and Rock Creek Middle School, SOLV is teaching a new generation ways to protect the environment through science class.  Here are some of the projects students have tackled:

Clackamas High:
Presenters from the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife and the Clackamas River Basin Council told students about the nutrients dead salmon deposit into the forest and stream as they decay.  Students then dissected the dead salmon to learn about fish anatomy and physiology.  The lesson ended with students trying the Japanese art of Gyotaku, a traditional form of fish printing used to record the size and type of fish.  Students also got creative with writing reflections from the salmon’s point of view.

Rex Putnam High:
Rex Putnam ‘s environmental science classes worked with SOLV to restore Boardman Creek in Milwaukie.  After removing an invasive patch of Armenian blackberry brambles, students got a lesson on native plants and invasive plants, and how the riparian zone can be improved by encouraging biodiversity.

Rock Creek Middle School:
SOLV brought a laboratory into the classroom, helping students with a macroenvertibrate survey, which provides an indicator of stream health and pollution.  Students learned a testing method called the pollution tolerance index to determine how clean a waterway is by the aquatic bugs and organisms they find.  Students tested the water from Rock Creek, which their school is named after.