Repairing the Whychus Creek riparian zone

 

Last updated 10/25/2022 at Noon

CEILI GATLEY

Students planted over 100 plants last week in a project designed to improve riparian habitat while providing science education and an ethic of stewardship.

Sisters Elementary School (SES) students had the opportunity to get their hands dirty at their hometown creek last week.

For the last month, the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council (UDWC) has been working with students on planting plants, trees, and grasses along the riparian zone of Whychus Creek at Creekside Park. The planting is part of the larger restoration project taking place in that area of the creek.

The species students are planting are all native to the area and will help protect the creek bank and prevent erosion into the creek. The UDWC collaborates with the Sisters schools throughout the year — working with juniors in the IEE class, and this fall, working with elementary age kids to promote ownership and stewardship of their community and creek.

“The students have an opportunity to be hands-on and become invested in their plants and how they help their creek,” said Education Director, Kolleen Miller. “The goal is to plant 2,300 plants in the upland and riparian zones.”

The SES students are working with their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) teacher Jocelyn Blevins, who was hired last year and has integrated a lot of environmental science curriculum. The hands-on planting with the students provides an experience that allows for integration of environmental science with stewardship and restoration to their own home area.

According to the UDWC’s website: “Through education, we guide local students to forge a lifelong, caretaking bond with our home watershed. By helping students develop a sense of place while they also foster an informed sense of environmental stewardship, we seek to ensure the health of Central Oregon’s rivers and streams for generations.”

The area alongside Creekside Park will be officially the elementary school’s adoption site. Blevins also incorporates hands-on opportunities with the garden program as well as incorporating arts into STEM programs, which makes it STEAM.

“These sort of hands-on stewardship projects and incorporating the garden program is just priceless for these kids and getting to see the area change and how their actions impact the creek below,” said Blevins.

The educators have a goal of using this opportunity to help the students remember native plant names and get excited about doing activities like this and being good stewards in their community.

“We see a longer change in behavior and attitudes, and take accountability for this area,” said Miller.

A parent said, “This is why we wanted our kids to go to school here, to have the opportunity to do stuff like this.”

Sisters Elementary School Principal Joan Warburg echoed the sentiment: “We want our students to connect with their environment and community, and it really echoes how and what we want to be. It is a great way for students to give back and have an invested ownership in their community area and a responsibility to care for the treasures that are unique to this town.”

The elementary school is not only collaborating with UDWC, but also with the Sisters Ranger District, with three different scientists working with Blevins and students throughout the year incorporating environmental science.

“We want to encourage connections with adults and become inspired to see career paths and opportunities to pursue their passions that they didn’t know they could make a career out of,” said Warburg.

The students planted over 100 plants during their time alongside Whychus Creek.

To learn more about the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council and their work in the community, visit www.upperdeschuteswatershedcouncil.org/.

 

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