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.

In for the Long Run…

Our willow cuttings… sprouting leaves!

Valley Catholic’s VERY dedicated Environmental Science class has been stewarding Johnson Creek all year.  Last week, alongside Village Home School, finished up planting, as well as relocating a few to more suitable micro climates   Check out these hard workers!

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We look forward to see what this group has in store for the SOLVE Student Summit coming up in May!

Thank you for your hard work, teacher Erin Cole’s excellent photographer skills and the laughter that happens at Johnson Creek!

Making Magic with Magic Sticks!

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

Village Home @ Johnson Creek, 1/18/2013

Village Home returns to Johnson Creek despite the chill to chop down some tree branches.  Chop down, you say?! Yes! For the purpose of creating live cuttings that will quickly create a dense mat of roots to prevent erosion, filter toxins, promote root growth in the other newly planted native plants and provide shade.  Last week, the plant of choice was Black Cottonwood (Populus trichocapra).  This hardy riparian tree, similar to willows (and is of the same family as willows) regenerates and grows roots quickly.

“The aggressive root
systems of black cottonwood are effective soil
stabilizers and make the species useful in restoration
of riparian areas, where it also provides protection for
the aquatic environment, especially in helping to
maintain low water temperatures through shading.
The high nitrate uptake and extensive rooting of these
trees make them useful for buffer or “filter” planting
along streams in agricultural areas.”

-USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center & the Biota of North America Program

After 1 year!


After 5 year

(Source: phytosphere)

We scouted out Johnson Creek to find some cottonwoods to harvest from.  Then the Village Home crew trimmed them down of their lateral branches to make the famous “magic sticks“! Some of the younger students became pretty attached to their magic sticks that they made!  About 20 live cottonwood cuttings were installed.  Then they finished the day with a reflection!

Thank you Village Home for joining us again!

Village Home: Small, but Mighty!

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Text and photos by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Northwest Member Lauren McKenna

Village Home @ Johnson Creek 11/16/2012

Village Home, still a fairly new Green Team, arrived at Johnson Creek by the masses to plant 72 native shrubs!  By the masses, we mean a small but mighty group of two parents (including Lori, Village Home founder) and three youth, as well as Lauren and Nicole (SOLVE Green Team leaders).  They rocked planting salmonberry, snowberry, sword fern and ninebark near the creek!  Planting in the creek’s riparian zone, now very soggy after the recent Oregon rain storm, required the good ol’ slice method; this means using a shovel to split open a “V” in the mud instead of trying to dig a hole — which is pretty difficult in the mud! — placing the plant in the “V” and then sealing it up by smooshing the mud around the roots of the wetland plant!  The younger kids seemed to like this method!  “Hmm, I think I need the slice method for this one!” was overheard many times.

                                          The native plants of the hour!


Thanks Village Home!  As you said, “Village Home loves to help!”… and Johnson Creek thanks you for your dedication to and joy in restoring it!  keep it up!

Discovering Johnson Creek

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Written by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Northwest Member Lauren McKenna

Village Home @ Johnson Creek 10/19/2012

Just before the weekend’s downpour, Village Home parents and youth returned to Johnson Creek for a tour,  a game reviewing Riparian zone concepts, and some Armenian blackberry removal.  They learned about the history of the Johnson Creek area, too.  The north part, near the railroad tracks, has some 11+ year old Douglas firs planted about 10 years ago (despite the fact that restoration work near disturbed areas (like train tracks) is often a challenge).  They also learned about the challenges of native beavers (hence why baby native plants need a cage around them for protection), the endless amounts of Reed canarygrass growing in the creek, and some plant ID.  Some native plants we looked at:

Snowberry, genus Symphoricarpos: aka “corpse berry”

Trailing Blackberry, Rubus ursinus: has separate male and female plants

Red Alder, Alnus ruba: fixes nitrogen in the soil into a usable form

Beaked Hazelnut, Corylus cornuta: has papery leaves

Tall Oregon Grape, Mahonia aquifolium: is not the same as invasive English Holly!

Sword Fern, Polystichum munitum: can ease a brush with stinging nettle

Then for the good stuff…blackberry removal!  They plowed through a monoculture of Armenian blackberry in a short amount of time, lopping off the canes and digging out the roots.  One boy asked when the day was done if we could work for 20 more minutes!



Great work!  Thank you for your enthusiasm and for being stewards of Johnson Creek!

Turning Learning into Action

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Written by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Northwest Member Lauren McKenna

Village Home, a resource center for home schooling families, turned out in great numbers at Johnson Creek last week.  As part of a new Green Team, most of the group of enthusiastic parents, Village Home teachers, youth and younger siblings had not been to Johnson Creek before, nor had they done blackberry removal.  Though this is the perfect grounds for teaching science to children, especially about stream ecology, it is not rocket science to remove the invasive Rubus armeniacus (Armenian blackberry, that is) when you have the energy and the right tools!

In a  flurry of shovels, loppers and shears, hands, smiles and laughter, Village Home removed close to a 15×20 foot rectangle of what was solid blackberry.   One parent chose to do a little less of a  ferocious, but nonetheless important, task of removing fireweed (the tall red weed with cotton like seeds that spread like crazy).  The amount of work done was astonishing!

Thank you, Village Home, for your hard work and gusto… Johnson Creek thanks you, too!  Welcome to Green Team; we hope you have an awesome experience this year and beyond and really enjoy being a steward of this creek.

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 “Its a job thats never started that takes the longest to finish.”-J.R.R. Tolkien

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