Since mid-February, over 300 students have come out to Errol Heights City Park to learn about and steward this urban gem of a natural area. A BES grant funded PP&R’s Stewardship Program, PP&R’s Environmental Education, Friends of Trees, and Johnson Creek Watershed Council, to facilitate nine service learning trips for eleven classes!
Three classes of El Puente Bilingual Elementary schoolers, seven classes from Bilquist Elementary, and one from Mt. Tabor Middle School, all descended upon Errol Heights to plant in the riparian area and learn about the ecosystems of the park. A scavenger hunt had students actively searching for different pieces of evidence of beaver activity. Walking along the pathways, students observed chew, dams, lodges, and trails – no confirmed tracks or scat, but beaver were definitely present! Not limited to using just one sense, students also got hands-on: they felt a beaver pelt and discovered the two different kinds of fur, touched beaver skulls, and felt the hardened iron enamel on beaver teeth – as well as some pieces of chew that they could touch without going off-trail!
With many different events, some days were a little extra special. On one day, students from Vanderbilt University’s Alternative Spring Break program assisted with planting through Friends of Trees. Bilquist Elementary’s SLCA group was able to join us on our final day. Students from El Puente Elementary School were able to learn all about beaver (castor) in Spanish.
Engaging in conversations around the history of beaver trapping in Oregon and how beaver and salmon thrive together, the marvels of these ecosystem engineers and the magic of such a beautiful area in the middle of Portland was tangible whether the days were rainy or clear.