An Amazing Week in October with Green Team! 10/26-11-1

Monday- 10/26- Deer Park Academy at Willow Creek

Deer Park Academy came to a new area of Willow creek, ready to learn more about what lives in our streams.  We conducted a macro invertebrate survey to assess the insect population at our new site, searching under rocks and in riffles.  For the most part, only worms and scuds were found.  Once we begin to re-vegetate the area,hopefully, things will change!

Once we checked out the stream we got to work removing invasive blackberry from the riparian area.  The students lopped a clear path to the creek! Thanks for all of your awesome work!

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Tuesday-10/27- Tobias Elementary at Beaverton Creek Tributary

This Tuesday at a Beaverton Creek Tributary three classes of Tobias Elementary fifth and sixth grade students played the Riparian Metaphor Game and removed harmful invasive species.  I was truly impressed with each class’s ability to recall information and concepts discussed in the previous week’s presentation.

After the game, the students each claimed a tool and worked hard to remove a pile of invasive Himalayan Blackberry which had taken over smaller trees.  They also released some young willows from the clutches of the ominous Morning Glory and the unyielding Reed Canary Grass (which has millions of seeds which are viable in the soil for up to forty years)!  The classes also did a wonderful job of being respectful and moving through the hallways quietly- it was a great day!

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Wednesday-10/28-Rachel Carson Middle School at Willow Creek

Rachel Carson Middle School students removed invasive Himalayan Blackberry, performed water quality tests and reviewed key restoration concepts at Willow Creek this Wednesday.

Due to the students’ valiant efforts, what was once a monoculture of blackberry is quickly transforming into a healthy forest.  A group of students commented that they did not even know there was a fence behind the blackberry bushes!

The students also worked with their teachers to test for dissolved oxygen levels, Ph, and Turbidity. Then, the water quality tests were tied into the Riparian Metaphor Game as a review of the different aspects of a healthy stream. It was hypothesized that as native plants continue to grow and hold onto the soil, turbidity levels will decrease and dissolved oxygen levels will increase as shade lowers the water temperature.

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Finally, Eight graders gave a history of Willow Creek to the incoming seventh graders and explained how “once upon a time” there had only been blackberry, but now, there was a biologically diverse, natural area growing!

Amazing Job Rachel Carson Students!

-Dane Breslin

JVC Northwest 2013-2014

Americorps 2013-2014

Rachel Carson Middle School at Willow Creek Doing Stations!

Rachel Carson Middle School students visited Willow Creek Wednesday, October 2nd for riparian restoration projects. Students split into groups and cycled through three different stations focused on invasive plant removal, water quality testing, and site familiarization.

At the first station, students played the Riparian Metaphor game to reestablish what was learned in class during the previous watershed presentation.  Sixth grade students were then led by eight grade students on a tour of the site.  The either graders shared personal stories of blackberry bushes that had towered over their heads, the efforts required to remove the gnarled blackberry roots, and planting native shrubs and trees which are currently growing magnificently.  Finally, students were introduced to some fundamental plant identification skills and then quizzed!  Their prior knowledge of plant i.d. was truly impressive!

The second station went down to the edge of the creek and took numerous measurements regarding water quality, while the third station used shovels and loppers to dig out the wretched blackberry that survived last years removal efforts.  Due to the blackberry removal, a plethora of weeds were suddenly given the opportunity to spring forth. These weeds included thistles, Morning Glory & the ominous Deadly Purple Night Shade.

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All in all, it was a wonderful day and much was learnt about the changing face of Willow Creek.  No longer burdened with Armenian Blackberry, the Red Osier Dogwoods and native willows are thriving. Most were planted a mere six months ago and now towered over us while we worked. These native trees will keep the soil in place and keep Willow Creek cool so that our fish can breathe easy.

Keep up the amazing work Rachel Carson Middle School & Thank You!


Restoring in the Rain… What a Glorious Feeling, I’m Happy Again!

You know you’re working with an awesome group of middle schoolers when their only remarks about a very cold and rainy day are, “I’m glad it’s not windy!” or “It could be way worse, guys!” We at SOLV were very impressed, humbled, and inspired by Rachel Carson Environmental Middle School’s incredible attitudes and hard work. After arriving to a very wet and muddy willow creek, these students definitely made us happy again!

Students carried numbers of shovels, Nootka Rose and Twinberry into the furthest section of our site at Willow Creek to plant. We laid out these shrubs and broke into three different groups.

Students tested the quality of water at Willow Creek with their teachers and only a few students tested the temperature in a more personal way by stepping/ falling into the creek. Still attitudes remained wonderful and happy!

We also planted many plants in a section completely new to RCEMS students! We are excited to see the ways these plants root dynamically into the soil and stabilize the bank, shade out reed canary grass and filter runoff from the nearby neighborhood.

Despite the thick and heavy mud we planted in, students still remained happy.
We then got to participate in an ethnobotany activity where we discovered the many ways people have used our native plants for medicinal and eatable purposes throughout history. We were surprised to find out the Oregon Grape has a yellow flesh that was used to make dyes, that Black Hawthorne was used to catch fish and pierce ears, and that people make tea with Douglas Spirea. We also talked about how Butterfly Bush is actually poisonous to butterflies but Douglas Spirea is a great native alternative.

The dedication of Rachel Carson Environmental Middle school in the rain made Willow Creek happy yet again, thanks for a great day!

Beaver Creek has 100 brand new native plants!

Portland Lutheran School Green Team joined us at Beaver Creek ALL day today.  35 very enthusiastic students jumped aboard a TriMet bus and made their way from the school to Gresham to the creek for a sunny fun-filled day.  Students planted 100 new native trees and shrubs to create shade, habitat and to help filter toxins for Beaver Creek.

Some students even took a trip down a beaver “slide” to see what it’s like to be a beaver at Beaver Creek!

Students also helped clear invasive Armenian(formerly known as Himalayan) Blackberry from around some natives planted by volunteers last year!  Students competed with each other for the biggest root award!

With teacher, Mr. Tarbell, students learned all about stream mapping techniques and tested pH, temperature and conductivity of Beaver Creek.

Thanks so much Portland Lutheran!  We’ll see you next month for a fishy adventure up the Sandy River!

Springdale Job Corps on a Tracking Mission

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This week, four students from Springdale Job Corps, Meghan (SOLV), Charlie (SOLV), and I (Gina), spent a very sunny morning at Beaver Creek watering our recently planted native trees and shrubs and casting tracks we found along the stream.  These students eagerly grabbed 5 lb buckets, filled them with water from the stream, and fearlessly walked through stinging nettle and blackberry to give our natives the water they needed to survive and conquer!  Even though we have had a fairly rainy summer, these new natives were definitely in need of more water after all of the sunshine we are getting now.  After lots of hard work loading, carrying, and pouring these buckets, we were excited to get to play with plaster and just have fun.

We each filled a small bag with plaster and set out to discover the most intriguing tracks we could find.  Many animals call Beaver Creek home including beavers (of course!), Great Blue Heron, racoons, garter snakes, and much more.  We walked along the stream and stumbled upon fresh racoon tracks!  They were all over the place so a couple of us chose the most detailed track we could find and poured our plaster down.  A couple more of us traveled up the stream a ways, really investing in this mission to find the perfect track.  We all grouped back up, found our hardened tracks and took our new souvineers home.  We are so glad to have all sorts of animals living near Beaver Creek- perhaps we will even see one in action on future visits!

Hawthorn at Willow Creek

Our friends from Deer Park joined us at Willow Creek this week, along with some new students which we are very excited about!  Meghan and Alex (SOLV) led the students and their teachers in planting black hawthorn trees along the edge of the property.

Black hawthorn, which grow to about 30 feet in height, require a sunny, upland and moist spot in which to be planted.  They provide excellent shade and will do a fantastic job shading out invasive reed canary grass, which is one of the major invasives at Willow Creek.  When it buds, hawthorn yields white flowers and a dark blackish fruit which provides food for wildlife.

Johnson Creek is going green

Just in time for Earth Day, 120 students from Valley Catholic Middle School joined SOLV this week at Johnson Creek to plant over 250 native trees and shrubs.  The 7th and 8th graders in June Poling’s classes learned a little bit about the benefits of native planting for the ecosystem, such as cooling stream temperatures, preventing soil erosion and creating habitat for native birds and other animals. 

Students planted spirea and other wetland plants in the lower portion of the site, as well as upland species in a forested area of the campus.  Thimbleberry, salmonberry and dogwood are amongst the native trees and shrubs planted to replace the invasive Himalayan blackberry that covered the area just a few months ago.  Way to dig in, Valley Catholic!

Springtime at Johnson Creek

Spring has certainly arrived in our corner of Oregon! The sun has begun peeking out from behind the clouds, trees are budding and flowers are showing themselves everywhere you look. Valley Catholic High School students enjoyed the sunshine and warm(er) weather this week when they joined SOLV in the wetland of Johnson Creek.

Students from Amy Lacks’ and Erin Cole’s classes planted over 300 trees and shrubs in the forested area and wetland behind their school. Natives like Oregon grape, Nootka rose, ash and alder were planted by students and will help to shade out invasive reed canary grass, lower stream temperatures, provide more stable habitat and prevent soil erosion. The live willow cuttings that students installed in the wetland this fall have begun to bud, as well! Thanks for your hard work, Valley Catholic!

Mountain View masters coffee bagging

A small and enthusiastic group of Mountain View Middle School students joined SOLV at Beaverton Creek Tributary last week to finish planting native plants.  The site is looking great with all the native plants in the ground; its hard to believe that just two years ago, it was covered in Himalayan blackberry.

Students also got a quick tutorial on the method of weed and invasive control we do at SOLV; coffee bagging!  As the spring starts, we are in the maintenance phase of our sites and coffee bagging helps native plants get a head start on weed growth.  Students staked coffee bags around native plants with biodegradeable cornstarch stakes and enjoyed the fact that it was a bit cleaner than our usual planting.  Happy Spring to all!

Women in Science Day

Students from the Portland metro area joined us this Saturday at Estacada High School to meet women in the field of science and hear about their experiences.  Women in Science Day is an annual event for SOLV; this is the 11th year the event has taken place and it was a great success!

Our mentors were joined Saturday morning by the girls to hear a short presentation about the amazing variety of opportunities available to women today in science fields.  Students then had the opportunity to introduce themselves to the mentors and have a rotating group discussion about their interests and hopes for the future.  With careers in wildlife ecology, environmental education, conservation planning, surveying and more, the mentors we were joined by this year provided great insight into what it is like to be a woman in the exciting and demanding world of science.

After meeting and sharing, the girls and mentors grabbed some shovels and headed to Currin Creek, behind Estacada High School, to learn a bit about stream restoration and tree planting.  Mentors and students paired up and braved the rain to plant some native trees and shrubs alongside Currin Creek to help stabilize the eroding banks, provide shade, slow the flow of sediment and provide habitat for wildlife in the area.  The group finished planting one side of the stream and continued onto the other, planting over 150 trees and shrubs. 

A big THANK YOU to all the girls who joined us for the event this weekend and to the mentors who shared their experiences and time with us; it was a great event and we hope to see you all next year!   All plants for the event were donated by Clackamas River Basin Council; thank you!