As the 3:15 bell rang out to announce the end of the school day, an exuberant buzz of voices echoed down the hallways of Central High School. Sylvia Hoagland, a biology teacher at CHS, looked over at me, and said she was really hopeful at least half of the students who signed up would show up for our first Environmental Club meeting. And then they started coming. First one, then two at a time, then three... and soon fourteen students were sitting in the classroom, joking and chatting with each other. Sylvia and I looked at each other in silent amazement, and then suddenly it was time to begin.
The idea of a CHS Environmental Club had hatched as a result of a discussion of ways in which the Luckiamute Watershed Council could collaborate in more ways with our local High School. Sylvia, who had just recently started teaching at CHS, had a strong desire to introduce her students to hands-on ecology, environmental science and botany activities, and the LWC had a strong desire to work with CHS students to nurture a stewardship
As we walked through school property towards the stretch of Ash Creek that flows behind Talmadge Middle School, the students were clearly excited to be out of the classroom. Though the sky was colored a distinct Oregon gray, one student remarked how bright it was outside compared to the classrooms. A middle-schooler that was tagging along with his older sister was already deciding that he would join the Environmental Club when he was in high school. When we approached the site where the trees were to be planted, another joked about wanting to go swimming instead. "If I had a stream in my backyard," he said, "I would be there every single day!"
Though exploring the creek sounded appealing, it was not what the students had signed up to do. The task at hand was to transplant cuttings -- or branches -- along the banks of Ash Creek to fill in the gaps that had been left when last year's hot, dry summer killed many of the trees and shrubs that had planted here as part of our Ash Creek Restoration Project. Not all
Wrap-up time came before many of the students were ready to stop. One student asked when they would know if their cuttings would survive. "Not until after the summer," I said. "Make sure to join the Environmental Club in the Fall, and we will check on them as one of our first activities!" Luckily, because this group was mostly sophomores and juniors, that will definitely be possible when they resume high school as juniors and seniors.
When all is said and done, maybe some of these trees weren't quite planted to the right depth, and maybe a harsh summer will wipe some of them out. Maybe some will be washed away by high water, and some might succumb to deer or voles. But one thing has already been planted within this group that is certain to thrive -- the desire to make their community a better place.