Students prepare to board school buses

Service Learning for 235 Students!

This May, we hosted two of our largest service learning trips ever! On the afternoons of May 10 and 23rd, a combined 235 students from Rowe Middle School joined us on field trips for hands on environmental education! For many students, this was their only field trip of the year, so being able to bring all the 7th graders from Rowe was very exciting.

To accommodate these large groups of students, we chose to work at the “Luther Road” site near SE 73rd and Luther Road, along Johnson Creek. This large site has restoration work planned for this summer by Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services. We held educational stations for students in areas where construction is slated for this summer, and conducted service-based activities such as plant care in areas that will not be impacted by summer construction. This is a special site, with a great blue heron, nesting killdeer, and other wildlife present throughout our field days.

Killdeer eggs in a ground nest. When startled, mother killdeer will cause a diversion and try to lead potential predators away from the nest.

Students rotated through 4 stations: Riparian Ecology, Water Quality Testing, Plant Care, and Trash Pickup. These stations gave students a variety of topics for exploration and inquiry. The Riparian Ecology station focused on understanding the ecosystem services of riparian zones- erosion control, shade for the creek, wildlife corridor, habitat, water storage and filtration, and more! We led half of each station in the sun and half in the shade. The contrast between hot sun and shade gave students an appreciation for the value of tree canopy, and its importance for salmon. Next was the Water Quality Testing station. Here, students hypothesized about water quality based on observations, then tested the water! We collected data on pH, dissolved oxygen, and temperature. Overall we observed conditions that were suitable for salmon and other sensitive aquatic species. The following station was Plant Care. Here, students learned hands-on restoration strategies for increasing plant survivorship. We mulched plants to provide nutrients and moisture retention during the hot summer. And we got the opportunity to observe ground nesting killdeer protecting their eggs. Last, students moved to the Trash Pickup station, where they learned about the impacts of trash on water quality and aquatic organisms. In rain events, stormwater washes trash from the watershed into Johnson Creek, which flows into the Willamette, then the Colombia River. In addition to impacting these freshwater systems, trash eventually washes into the ocean. Eighty percent of marine trash comes from land, and making this connection between local actions and global environmental issues really motivated the students.

Susan Hawes, Johnson Creek Watershed Stewardship Coordinator with Portland Parks & Recreation, prepares students for the Plant Care station.

With so many students on site, we could not have done this project without support from our partners and volunteers. Portland Parks & Recreation, which manages the Springwater Corridor Trail along the North edge of the site, provided extensive event planning support and led stations for both field trip days. North Clackamas Parks and Recreation Department, which manages the majority of the recreation area, supported our work through permitting, and leading a station for one field trip day. We also had support from Confluence AmeriCorps members at Portland BES and the City of Gresham. JCWC Creek Crew Leaders, who lead other volunteers at our weekend restoration events, supported our service learning work by leading educational stations for students for both days! Teachers from Rowe Middle School were a huge help with scheduling and planning this event, and also recruited parent chaperones, for which we are grateful. We adapted parts of our curriculum from the Salmon Watch program, so big thank you to them! We are also grateful for to the Gray Family Foundation and Herbert A Templeton Foundation, for funding our service learning work year round. Lastly, in addition to funding our service learning program directly, Clackamas County Water Environment Services provided bus transportation funding for all 235 students, plus parent chaperones and teachers. Transportation is often a barrier for environmental recreation and education, so these transportation funds proved invaluable for the success of this programming. We are so grateful to all the community members, funders, and organizations who collaborated to make these events successful, and we hope to continue our work with Rowe Middle School in future years!

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