This spring, Hockinson School District partnered with Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership to champion hands-on environmental science education opportunities for students at Hockinson Heights Elementary School. Students participated in classroom activities with Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership educators, then applied the learning to hands-on native shrub planting at Burnt Bridge Creek Greenway in Vancouver, Washington. This program exposes young students to scientific careers while making a difference in the community.
The hands-on native shrub planting field trip was a culmination of classroom research and opportunity for students to solve real world problems. Planting native trees and shrubs along the riparian areas of Burnt Bridge Creek helps to improve the health of local waterways and enhance wildlife habitat. Students will witness the tangible effects of their work at Burnt Bridge Creek Greenway throughout their lifetimes.
“These plants help to make a healthy habitat for fish and birds," said Charlotte (Charlie), 4th grade student at Hockinson Heights Elementary School.
“This program provides students the opportunity to not only study native fish and plants in our area, but also allows them to be proactive about restoring native habitats that are vital to wildlife in our region,” said Morgan Beaty, 4th grade teacher at Hockinson Heights Elementary School. “My hope is that students will feel a sense of ownership over their research, problem solving, and teamwork within their community, and ultimately recognize the difference they can make.”
Native species planted by Hockinson Heights Elementary School students this winter include black hawthorn, tall oregon grape, osoberry, ponderosa pine, pacific ninebark, bitter cherry, blue elderberry, douglas spirea, common snowberry, and oregon white oak. These plants filter out pollutants, helping to protect water quality for humans and wildlife.
“This is important because it keeps the water cool, clean and clear.” said Beulah, Hockinson Heights Elementary School student in Ms. Ruestig’s class.
Students also gain valuable opportunities to meet environmental educators, restoration ecologists, field technicians, and others working in the field of science.
“By transforming schoolyards and local natural areas into learning labs, students can see the practical applications of what they're learning and make real-world connections,” said McKenzie Miller, education coordinator at Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership.
The mission of the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership is to restore and care for the waters and ecosystems of the lower Columbia River for current and future generations of fish, wildlife, and people. The partnership achieves education and stewardship goals for both the Hockinson School District and the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership, to inspire youth to recognize the direct impact of their actions and become invested in protecting the local environment.