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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!


Discovering a New Watering Technique

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Written by DukeEngage volunteers, Julie Rohde and Mathias Skadow

Several students, parents, and teachers from Rachel Carson Middle School joined SOLVE for maintenance and watering at Willow Creek. This site was unique because we did not have access to a spigot and the stream bank was too steep to walk down. Instead, we put our creativity to use and implemented a water-well technique with some buckets and twine. Not only did we have to throw the buckets into the stream and reel them up but we also had to carry them up the hill to reach our site. All of the hard work was worth it because many of the plants were dry and desperate for some H2O.

Next, we continued on to remove a patch of thistle that was beginning to hog the soil from our young plants. Thistle removal is always a rewarding activity because you feel as if you have conquered the sharp thorns. At the end of the maintenance day, the group snacked on some ripe blackberries that were growing on the perimeter of our site. The berries were perfectly sweet and refreshing after a morning of heavy lifting. Although the Armenian Blackberry is often the enemy, they are extremely tasty and nutritious.

Deer Park Academy meets Willow Creek

Deer Park Academy students met us out at Willow Creek for their first time today.  Students got acquainted with the site by playing a riparian metaphor game and touring around learning all about invasive plant species.  We even saw evidence of active beaver chews on some trees.  Students will be visiting Willow Creek once a week this school year, talk about commitment and stewardship!

Then students dug in to remove Armenian (aka Himalayan) that was growing up around natives planted by last year’s class from Deer Park.  Not only does this invasive species negatively impact our waterways but it damages our economy as well.

From ODA Plant Division:

Armenian blackberry is the most widespread and economically disruptive of all the noxious weeds in western Oregon. It aggressively displaces native plant species, dominates most riparian habitats, and has a significant economic impact on right-of-way maintenance, agriculture, park maintenance and forest production. It is a significant cost in riparian restoration projects and physically inhibits access to recreational activities. It reproduces at cane apices (tips) and by seeds, which are carried by birds and animals. This strategy allows it to expand enmass across a landscape or to jump great distances and create new infestations. Any control strategy can be considered short-lived unless projects are planned and funded for the long-term.

This is why we commit to sites with students for the long-term so we can really make an impact in getting rid of Armenian blackberry from Willow Creek and our other restoration sites!  Thank you Deer Park Academy!

Rachel Carson Eighth Graders Take the Lead

Four eighth grade students from Rachel Carson Environmental Middle School coordinated an event at Willow Creek this past weekend to let community members and neighbors see what they have been doing for the past year.

These students have been working at Willow Creek with SOLV for the last three years, as all Rachel Carson students start with Green Team in 6th grade.  As a part of their 8th grade projects, they all wrote articles and put together a newsletter that they took door to door and handed out to over 400 houses.  This community event last weekend was the final piece of their project and they did an excellent job of informing volunteers about all of the great work they do.

Coffee bagging native trees and shrubs was on the agenda for the event; the students talked to volunteers about the site and how to be safe when handling tools.  Students showed volunteers the proper way to install a coffee bag around plants and made sure to highlight that we were installing them to impede reed canary grass from growing around them.  Volunteers and students cleared the invasive grass from around the plants and coffee bagged over 80 trees and shrubs.. Thanks so much for your leadership, Rachel Carson!

Willow Creek Thanks You

The eighth grade class of Rachel Carson Environmental Middle School joined us at Willow Creek for their final official site visit with Green Team.  These students have been coming to the site with their school for the past three years and in that time, they have planted over 3,500 trees and shrubs!  In the seven years that Rachel Carson has been at Willow Creek, students have planted 6,500 natives; so these students have been involved in planting over half of the trees on the site.

Here’s what some of them had to say about their experience:

I have learned so much and now when I see invasives, I pull them.  I am even convincing my parents to have a native yard habitat!

This project has changed my view of natural settings.  When I see a tree with English Ivy, I want to pull it off because it is suffocating the plant.

Before, I thought that work was something you do for your own benefit, but now I see it as helping the community.

This experience makes me want to do other community involvement work!

I have had my eyes open and fallen in love with nature!

I have become a more productive worker; I work harder, longer and better.

I realized that only a small group of people can make a huge difference if we work toward a common goal.

Now whenever I’m walking around my neighborhood, I can identify plants and see if they’re native.

I have changed because I now know the importance of taking care of the environment.  Also, how doing something, no matter how big or small, can impact the environment, whether good or bad.

I have become much more environmentally aware of both local and world-wide problems.  I have learned to work in teams better.

I go outside more.

I’m not as afraid to get dirty!

It was really fun working with the SOLV volunteers and they really helped our school.

I have had many good memories from SOLV and I will remember them forever.

Thank you Rachel Carson 8th graders; we’ll see you this weekend at Willow Creek for our coffee-bagging extravaganza!  Join us for watering over the summer, we can’t wait to see you again 🙂

Chew this, not that!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Deer Park Academy is still going strong!  Students joined us at Willow Creek this week to install caging around native hawthorn trees they planted this spring.  We are seeing a lot of beaver activity at our sites and while we love these native animals, we want them to chew mature trees and allow our young trees and shrubs to grow.  Great work, Deer Park!

Beavers are active during the day (diurnal) but become nocturnal with human encroachment. They don’t hibernate. Beavers build dams to create deep water needed for protection. The dams are made of branches, grass and mud. The main lodge of a beaver dam is 6 to 10 feet in diameter. Some people say beaver dams cause floods, but on the other hand, they help control runoff, and aid in keeping erosion in check and maintaining a suitable water table for fish and waterfowl.

The population of beavers is stable to increasing in what remains of suitable habitat. The threats to beavers are civilization, habitat destruction, water pollution, and hydroelectric dam construction. They are regulated by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. (from the Oregon Zoo)

Bundle Up!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This week, students from Deer Park Academy joined SOLV at Willow Creek to learn a little bit more about bioengineering techniques.  The last time they visited the site, students installed live willow stakes in the banks to halt erosion and create shade.

This week, we tried a different stream bioengineering technique called fascine bundles or wattles; these are bundles of live and dead plant material that are bound together with twine and placed in a shallow trench.  We used long and short willow stakes harvested from mature trees on-site and installed them on the edge of the waterway; students alternated the tips and buds of the stakes to ensure even growth.  When they root out, these bundles will create a great system of varying root depths to hold onto the soil and will grow to shade the waterway to lower the stream temperature.  All of this without machinery or invasive materials!

Spreading the stewardship word…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Rachel Carson Environmental Middle School 8th grade students were all-stars last week; they joined us out at Willow Creek for their last site visit as well as at the Oregon Zoo to help SOLV with its annual breakfast!

The 8th grade class joined Alex and Hannah (SOLV) at Willow Creek on Wednesday for their last work day as Rachel Carson students.  Eighth grade students Jessie, Kori, Harry, Ann and Samantha put together some articles they wrote and created a “Friends of Willow Creek” newsletter to inform neighbors of all of the restoration work being done by the students and to let community members know they are leading their own event in Willow Creek on June 4th.  All eighth graders helped us go door to door and hand out nearly 400 newsletters in one morning! 

But they didn’t stop there.  Students also worked together to install coffee bags around native plants and shrubs in the wetland; this will give the plants some space to grow without being invaded by reed canary grass. 

A HUGE THANK YOU goes out to the Rachel Carson 8th grade class for all of their hard work, enthusiasm and dedication to making Willow Creek a healthier and happier place over the last three years.  Your work has already blossomed and you have shared so much of your knowledge with sixth and seventh graders, giving them the tools to succeed.  THANK YOU and we will see you in June!

A lesson for a lifetime

When Hannah, a senior from Glencoe High School, contacted SOLV for a job shadow experience we quickly put her interest and experience in environmental science to work!  She offered to help lead Rachel Carson Middle School students at Willow Creek over several Wednesdays.  Hannah has been a HUGE help educating students in the field and keeping them focused, enthusiastic and informed about restoration activities like caging natives to protect them from beaver and coffee bagging natives to shade out Reed Canary Grass.

After learning about restoration activities happening at Willow Creek, Hannah realized just how much a similar Reed Canary grass invaded wetland next to her school could benefit if students became actively involved.  Glencoe High is located right next to McKay Creek, a very high priority waterway for restoration in the Tualatin Basin.  So she rallied some students, friends and teachers together on a sunny Saturday to plant several native Douglas Fir trees along the natural area not only to enhance habitat and water quality but to also honor eight retiring teachers at Glencoe High.

Hannah did not stop there, during her Saturday event students and teachers also harvested about 30 Red Osier Dogwood cuttings and installed them in the wetland to enhance biodiversity in the area.  She is also encouraging students and teachers to continue her work at McKay Creek.

Thank you Hannah for all your work this spring!  You have truely been an inspiration to many and we know you’ll do great things in the future!

Kids and Critters at Willow Creek

Willow Creek was a buzz of activity this week with Deer Park students planting on Tuesday and 60 students from Rachel Carson Environmental Middle School visiting the site on Wednesday.   

Rachel Carson students installed coffee bags around native plants and shrubs along the creek after removing old and new-growth of invasive reed canary grass.  These coffee bags will biodegrade in a short time, but allows the plant to get a head start without pesky weeds and invasives competing for light and space.  After maintaining existing plants, students harvested willow cuttings from the site and installed live stakes along the stream to eventually provide soil stabilization and shade.

Students also helped tweak our native turtle habitat that we will be working on for the next year or so; biologists from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife have been really helpful in directing our building efforts of this habitat.  We hope that within coming years, native western pond and western painted turtles will live and lay their eggs at the site. 

Though we haven’t seen any turtles yet, wildlife was out and about at Willow Creek this week!  Students saw a large blue heron, mallards, garter snakes, Pacific tree frogs and even a nest of native gray tailed vole babies!  From the Smithsonian website:

One of several voles with very small ranges, Gray-tailed Voles live only in lower-elevation grasslands. They do well in agricultural areas. They are excellent swimmers and can often escape flooding that way.

Students used great care when they discovered the nest and were able to observe four voles out and about in their nest.  Check out this OPB video about “vole holes!”