Whistle While You Work!

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

St. Matthew School 6th grade, 5/3/2013

Work as in… exploring the creek and searching for bugs!  Students got to search for macroinvertebrates living in Council Creek.  It has been very dry, the creek is moving pretty slowly and the water is very low, but we still found all sorts of life like damselfly larvae, aquatic worms and even fish and tadpoles (after many tries!).  After watching Lauren (SOLVE) take a unplanned dip in the creek, everyone was pretty cautious of unsuspecting sink holes!

Some other students decided there needed to be some soothing music and took to whistling with grass.  (If you are able to do this, you are a very talented person!)

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The class also did reflections on their time spent at Council Creek and did a little maintenance of the native plants by laying down coffee bags around them to prevent invasive grasses from growing up around them.

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THANK YOU to the 6th graders at St. Matthew School!  We hope you had fun and learned something new!

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.

Bugs ‘n’ Coffee

Photos and text by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest AmeriCorps Members Lauren McKenna and Nicole Poletto

(City View Charter 7th/8th grades and St. Matthew’s 7th grade at Council Creek, 4/12/2013)

On what seemed like the first sunny day in awhile (at least the first sunny day for City View Charter’s 7th and 8th graders!), Council Creek got a double dose of love!

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On the east bank of the creek, City View blasted through maintaining about 60 newly planted native plants!  They laid down pre-used coffee bags (burlap sacks made from jute), donated by Boyd’s Coffee as well as mulched them.


Some benefits of “coffee bagging”:

~ cuts down on the growth of invasive weeds right around baby native plants, especially Reed Canarygrass, by shading them out.  Reed Canarygrass seeds stay viable for up to 50 years!  Trimming it by hand is helpful right away, but it is shade that it really despises!

~ eventually decomposes, adding nutrients back to the soil

~ adds a “re-purposed” stylized look to restoration projects… recycled coffee bean bag pillows, anyone?!


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On the west bank of the creek, St. Matt’s was busy scoping out the creek for stream bugs.  Some specimens found included lots of snails (yay! but they are very pollution tolerant), some water boatmen, a few sculpin, and even a couple cased caddisfly larvae!  Caddisfly larvae are moderately sensitive to pollution, which could tell us that Council Creek has hope!  Some make cases for themselves out of found materials like gravel and plant material.  This caddisfly larvae seems to be encased in algae and reed canarygrass:

Cased caddisfly!

Cased caddisfly!

Thank you St. Matthew’s and City View!  And thank you to Boyd’s Coffee for the coffee bags!

“The Wonderful Outdoors!”

Text and photos by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Northwest Member Lauren McKenna

St. Matthew’s 8th grade @ Council Creek 12/7/2012

Council Creek in Cornelius has taken a 360° turn, at least since the St. Matthew’s 8th graders were here last year.  The reed canarygrass that once towered over their heads has now been mostly replaced by newly planted native willows, spirea, ninebark and twinberry.

This time, they got to do some more planting of native shrubs that will, in due time, shade out the reed canarygrass.  The students loved getting their hands muddy and giving the plants a new home by the creek!  And at blistering speed, but still doing it well, they put 96 plants into the ground!

Next, they ventured through the creek (ie trudged through a somewhat flowing, ankle deep creek, which still resulted in very wet jeans!) to the other side to the land of big healthy Douglas Spirea and willows.  With great skill, they harvested willow and spirea branches, enough to trim into 30 pole cuttings, or stakes, that they put into the soggy creek.  These stakes will develop roots quickly to stabilize the soil as well as provide shade to reduce invasive reed canarygrass.

The fruits of our labors!  Willow pole cuttings ready to go!

The fruits of our labors! Willow pole cuttings ready to go!

When asked how all this work, planting and staking the willows, helped their community, here is what they said:

“I feel like I am a savior of the environment”   


“even though our contributions here are small,

I’ve still made a difference”


“We are helping our community by being good stewards of our earth and it’s life”


“three words of the day:

willows (I love willow staking!)

nature (I love getting to go into nature!)

lush (I hope that this creek be lush soon!)”


“this helps the community by providing a way

to restore our outdoors/ outdoors experience”

Way to go, St. Matt’s!  Thank you for your hard work and the fun times!  Happy Holidays!

City View and St. Matt’s tag-team Council Creek!

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Written by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteers Lauren McKenna and Nicole Poletto and SOLVE Green Team Coordinator Meghan Ballard

City View Charter 7th and 8th grade/ St. Matt’s 6th grade @ Ryland Park 11/09/2012

Happy First Frost!  And what a welcome the frost got when City View Charter School AND St. Matthew’s  still showed up to plant native trees and shrubs along Council Creek.  Despite the fall chill, everyone seemed to enjoy working — and playing.

Sixth graders  seventh graders, eight graders, teachers and parents all joined the fun where we planted about 60 native willows, ash, ponderosa pines, Douglas spirea and ninebark and added mulch around each.  This diversity of flora will not only make Council Creek look great and help rid of the invasive Reed Canarygrass there; they will also make it healthier by filtering out urban runoff the, providing ideal wildlife habitat and absorbing toxins and pollutants before they enter the creek.

ALTERNATE arrangment

OPPOSITE arrangement

Students got to plant, add mulch to newly the newly planted, learn about riparian (river “bankside“) concepts though a metaphors game and also learn some plant identification skills.  One of the most important things to remember when doing plant ID is that you cannot ONLY look at leaves…. especially if a plant loses them in winter!  One trick is to look at leaf or bud arrangement on the stem.  Are they right across from each other?  Then it’s opposite.  Do they alternate in a zig-zag pattern?  Then it’s alternate.  If they encircle the stem, it’s whorled.

Our friends SAM ‘n’ TED also help with plant ID.  There are many alternately arranged plants, but only 6 opposite:

S nowberry

A sh

M aple (like Big Leaf and Vine Maples)

T winberry

E lderberry

D ogwood

We also talked about lenticels (they look like polka-dots, see the photos), which are pores in the bark that allow for gas exchange!  Trees like Oregon Ash and Red Alder have great big, visible lenticels that allow them to to thrive in degraded soil.

After learning about native plants, students also wrote about and drew some of their favorites, like the Pacific Ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus)and the Oregon Ash (Fraxinus latifolia).

Pacific Ninebark drawing by student!

Oregon Ash

O kay in bad dirt/soil

R eally cool!

E nergy comes from air and sunlight

G reen leaflets

O range-brown lenticels

N ative plant of Oregon

A  type of opposite leaf arrangement

S mall now

H uge later

~ St. Matthew’s student

After a morning of hard work, the St. Matthew’s students and their teacher Mrs. Karper taught the students from City View Charter a song.  Everyone also got to say one word about their day at Council Creek.  Some said….




Cold hands

Cold feet

Learned a lot

Happy to help



SOLVE and Council Creek are also very grateful for your hard work and energy!  Thank you City View Charter and St. Matthew’s School for coming out to help the creek become a healthy ecosystem!

Twinberry, Twinberry, you grow fruit in two, today we learned a lot about you!

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Written by SOLVE Green Team Program Coordinator Meghan Ballard

St. Matthew’s @ Ryland Park (Council Creek) 10/22/2012

A team of very enthusiastic seventh graders from St Matthews students joined us at Council Creek last week for the first time this school year.  Students reminisced about visiting Council Creek last year and noticed some tree and shrub growth from the summer months!

Students first split into two groups; one group went on a plant ID walk with Lauren(SOLVE) while the other group battled Reed Canary grass with Meghan(SOLVE).  Over the summer the invasive Reed Canary grass had grown up around our native trees and shrubs and students worked to give them some much needed breathing room by cutting the grass from around the plantings.

Midway through we had a break in the rain and reflected on our native plant ID lesson.  Students chose their favorite native plant from Lauren’s talk and spent 15 minutes with it, drawing the plant in detail and writing poetry about the plant.  Below are some of our favorite responses!

A student reflection on Twinberry

Twinberry, Twinberry, you grow fruit in two

Today we learned a lot about you.

Berries of blue and leaves of green,

One of the most fantastical plants I’ve ever seen!

The opposite leaves go different ways,

and they are growing bigger over the days.

Dear twinberries I hope I can see you again,

Maybe I could plant you in my garden!

-7th grader, St. Matthews

Ponderosa Pine, oh so divine

With its stems so green

And its base so lean

Soon it will thrive,

And will most likely survive,

With rain drops that are sweet

That will make a good treat,

And the sun so bright

Will make the Ponderosa pine delight

-7th grader, St Matthews

A student reflection on Dogwood

Students did not stop there!  At the end we all joined together as a big group and planted 28 native trees and shrubs!

Thank you St. Matthews!

St. Matthew’s has Council with Council Creek

Written by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest member Charlie

The 8th-graders from St. Matthew’s School in Hillsboro made a trek out to Council Creek this morning to explore, help, and learn from their local watershed.

Students first had the opportunity to explore the macroinvertebrate community living in the creek. Aquatic bugs are a good indication of stream health as some insects we know to be pollution insensitive. The presence or lack thereof of these invertebrates can give us clues to how much the water in Council Creek is polluted. Using a Pollution Tolerance Index to score for the stream’s health based on the richness of orders of invertebrates they found, students discovered that the stream was hovering just above the “poor” rating. Nevertheless we did discover some pretty awesome inverts, such as the scorpion-like damselfly larvae, the shy case making caddisfly larvae, and leeches!

Empowered to help these little guys out and to improve the watershed, students then helped maintain some of the native plants their classmates had planted earlier in the year by staking biodegradable coffee bags around them. This will help suppress aggressive invasive plants like reed canary grass from completely choking them out this summer. While they were busy coffee bagging, we discovered about 50 plants that had been placed out to be planted but overlooked by a previous volunteer group. The St. Matthew’s all-star 8th-graders went above and beyond their call of duty and took it upon themselves to get these plants in the ground.

The students also took some time to reflect on why it is important to be planting these natives and helping them grow, fostering a healthy riparian zone. They played a game in which they were given random every day objects (ice cube tray, coffee filters, etc.)and came up with how those objects are a metaphor for a healthy riparian zone (ice cubes cool our water, like shade in a riparian zone, coffee filters filter out sediment from water, like the plants in a healthy riparian zone, etc).

Thanks for all of your hard work, and we look forward to working with several of you in the future as we found out that many of you will be attending schools in the area who have SOLVE Green Teams like Forest Grove High, Glencoe High, and Valley Catholic!

Thanks to Clean Water Services for funding this project!

St. Matthews at Council Creek

Early Wednesday morning, a bus full of 30 St. Matthew’s School 6th graders pulled up to Ryland Park overlooking Council Creek. Upon just glancing at this site, all of the students could tell that a lot of work needed to be done. A sea of invasive reed canary grass sprawled out before them, with a few native trees and shrubs, just barely hanging on. There were no trees shading the creek, no deep roots stopping soil from eroding away, no biodiversity of any kind to invite local wildlife to use this natural space as a place for food or shelter, just a desert of grass.

Once they saw what they were up against, the plucky kids from St. Matthews picked up their tools and got to work. Some got to work planting willow and ash trees. However, the grass had created a thick shallow root mat that one needed to chop through to even get to the soil below, it was hard work, and if you weren’t careful, the mud got the better of you (as some students quickly discovered). Meanwhile, another group was scouring the site for some healthy dogwood and willow trees to take branches from which to make stakes to stake in the ground. These living stakes will take root and propagate into new trees, creating that nice shade and deep root systems that this creek so desperately needs.

After 2 hours of hard work, and nearly 150 new plants in the ground to show for it, these students really made a huge difference in the future of Council Creek. Thanks St. Matthews!

Tigers, Bears and St. Matthew’s 7th Graders!

Just 24 hours after students were introduced to the concepts of a watershed in our classroom presentation, students from St. Matthews put their new knowledge to use.  After learning about the ways in which tall native trees shade our creek and keep it cool and full of dissolved oxygen, and why we want to minimize the amount of invasive species at Council Creek, students eagerly got to work.   The part of Council Creek we are restoring is just beyond Ryland Park in Cornelius.

We played a fun Riparian Metaphor game where students had to call upon concepts regarding watersheds and riparian corridors to link them to the various objects they were given.  Students broke up into groups to brainstorm then came back together to report their thought processes.  It was so inspiring to hear the awesome ideas everyone came up with.  Very nice job, St. Matthews!

We also laid down coffee bags and put biodegradable stakes in the corners to prevent invasive species such as reed canary grass from growing next to our native trees and shrubs.  When we announced a 15 minute break midway through the morning, a few students even opted to keep coffee bagging!  It was great to see students having fun while restoring their creek!  We even found some woolly bear caterpillars that will turn into tiger moths!

Lastly, we crossed the creek and discovered a big and beautiful Willow tree just waiting for us to help it multiply.  We did this by cutting a few branches off of this mature tree and cutting them down to the perfect size to make a new tree with.  It is so amazing that when put into the ground, a branch of a willow tree will propagate a whole new tree!  We planted our new stakes along the creek and hopped back on the bus.

It was a productive, eventful, and very fun morning at Council Creek!

Isabella Tiger Moth