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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Welches Elementary/Middle Schools, Welches, Oregon, USA

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Welches Elementary/Middle Schools, Welches, Oregon, USA
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Registered: December 2010
City/Town/Province: Sandy
Posts: 1
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I live in a truly beautiful area. My hometown, Sandy, is the last major town before reaching the outskirts of the Mt Hood foothills and the Sandy River Valley. Mt Hood National Forest is a short drive from my home, and many of my classmates who live in the mountain village towns live near or on National Forest land. In the summers, I love hiking, camping, and riding horses in the trails around Mt Hood and the Colombia River Gorge. During the winter many people enjoy cross country skiing and snowshoeing on these same trails.
Environmental issues have always been near and dear to my heart. From the earliest age I have had a love of the natural world and a strong desire to protect it. Perhaps growing up in a rural, beautiful area helped fuel this love, but I think it would have grown and flourished regardless of where I had been raised. I believe that in order to protect our environment, we must first understand it. Without at least the most basic understanding of the world around us, we can blunder around, mindlessly destroying what we touch through our ignorance of the consequences of our actions. Education, especially in youth, is crucial to protecting our natural world.
This last year I learned through a local organization called Mt Hood Green Scene that Welches Elementary and Welches Middle School were looking for someone to organize the restoration of a forest trail behind the schools. The trail had not been maintained for about ten years, and was very overgrown, in some areas completely invisible. One of the primary motivations for the project was that the school’s teachers wanted to be able to use the trail to teach science to their students. Stations are going to be set up along the trail, identifying parts of the forest, native plants, and animals. Example terms include: nurse log, snag, Douglas fir, downy woodpecker, licorice fern and so on. Normally, science is taught within the four walls of a classroom, through textbooks and worksheets that fail to grab the attention of many students or to convey the importance of the subject. The trail would enable teachers to instruct students about science outside, in the natural world. Students would be able to see and experience science hands on. There’s no comparison to the experience of getting drenched collecting leaf samples, identifying native plants, or testing soil pH when held up against reading chapters of information out of a book. The book may describe all of these things and even provide pictures and activities, but experiencing science outdoors has a much greater impact. It connects students to the issues and information by conveying the immediate relevance and importance of the subject and gives them a more complete knowledge of the environment.
By the time I learned about the need for the project, the immediate problem was how short of a time I had to organize it. It was early November, meaning that I only had a couple of weeks before the snow would come, which would postpone the trail restoration until next spring. I set the date for Saturday, November 13, giving me two weeks to organize volunteers, find tools for everyone, sort out paperwork, and coordinate communication between the High School, Middle School, and Mt Hood Green Scene. I also coordinated with the Forest Service who helped provide tools and volunteers. Originally I considered holding the event the next weekend, but in hind sight it was a very good decision to have it the week before. The weather was perfect on the 13th, clear skies for most of the day, just light rain near the end, and about 45 degrees Fahrenheit; the perfect weather for working hard outside. The next weekend brought heavy rain and then snow; thank goodness we had finished everything by that time!
I found volunteers through numerous clubs at my high school, including Green Club, Key Club, National Honor Society, Aquanauts, and the AP Environmental Science class. I also had adult volunteers from Mt Hood Green Scene, middle schoolers from Welches, and teachers from the high school and middle school. It’s very hard to make teenagers, or even adults for that matter, commit to showing up. I needed to have an estimate of how many people were going to be there so that I would have enough tools, such as loppers, rakes, hand saws, and shovels, to go around. People could bring their own tools if they wanted, but I emphasized with every person, “NO power tools,” I didn’t want safety or liability issues to become a problem.
I had about 25 people volunteer to help, and the trail restoration was a huge success! We cleared all the overgrown sections of the trail and partially extended it. The wet climate of western Oregon creates lush, quick growing vegetation, meaning that trails need to be maintained often. We also cleared fallen trees and debris from an open clearing which is to become an outdoor classroom with benches for the students. Everyone worked really hard, and because of it we were able to finish the initial work in just three hours. The school principal and groundskeeper were so surprised by how much we were able to get done in one day!
In addition to being used for teaching science, the trail will be used for PE classes and cross country because the schools do not have a track. After that Saturday, I had people coming up to me at school, asking when I was going to organize another day to work on the trails. I’ve also had many requests from my classmates who couldn’t make it to organize another trail maintenance day so that they too can help out. It’ll have to wait until spring when the snow melts and the ground dries out a little, but I am definitely planning on continuing to organize groups of people to help maintain the trail.
Date: December 31, 2010 Views: 5952 File size: 22.9kb, 1396.9kb : 2896 x 1944
Hours Volunteered: 98
Volunteers: 26
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 18 & 13 to 65
Area Restored for Native Wildlife (hectares): 2
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