Kalmiopsis Elementary School fifth graders work with volunteers to clear around creek. The Pilot/Lorna Rodriguez
Nearly 60 very determined fifth-graders wearing rain boots and gardening gloves used shovels, rakes and clippers Thursday morning and afternoon to remove invasive species plants from Jacks Creek on a portion of Salmon Run golf course.
The Kalmiopsis Elementary School students from Nikki Darger and Amy Garnier’s classes were removing Himalayan blackberry roots.
The project was a partnership with South Coast Lower Rogue Watershed Council. Watershed Education Coordinator Statia Ryder set up the project after receiving permission from the golf course.
“I just get inspired by the partnerships, people saying, ‘Yes, this is a worthy project, we’ll come out and help you with it,’” Ryder said.
Members of Oregon South Coast Fishermen volunteered to supervise the students, and the U.S. Forest Service bought plants and trees.
This week, the students removed the blackberry roots. Next Thursday, they will plant native shrubs and deciduous trees.
Fifth-graders McKenna Davis and Nate Bond enjoyed themselves.
“I like that we just get to help and pull out the stuff,” Davis said. “It’s more fun than being stuck in class and being bored. I like hands-on activities better than pen and paper.”
Bond liked using shovels and digging.
“I thought it would be fun to help, and it’s really fun to help out with other work,” he said.
The students were working in this area because salmon, trout and steelhead spawn in the stream, Ryder said.
It has nice gravel, and a nice habitat, she explained.
“This Himalayan blackberry is just taking over with a force,” Ryder said.
The blackberry causes erosion and forces silt into the river, which suffocates the fish eggs.
Garnier agreed to participate because “I think the best way to learn science is hands- on,” she said.
Before removing the invasive species, students learned about watersheds, biodiversity and invasive species in the classroom with Ryder.
To learn about watersheds, Ryder brought a 16-foot-long watershed model to show different sources of pollution, and how pollution could enter a river.
When addressing biodiversity, Ryder explained that blackberries aren’t bad, but diversity is needed for animals to survive.
To make her point, Ryder asked students how they would feel if they walked into a grocery store and all of the aisles were filled with lettuce because lettuce was the only option.
Finally, to teach about invasive species, Ryder used a war analogy. She told students that the blackberry was brought over from Europe because Europeans wanted to bring the big delicious berry, and that the students needed to fight the battle for biodiversity by removing the invasive species.
“So far, what we’ve done, I think it’s gone really well,” Ryder said. “Time is limited, (but) I’m sure we’ll continue in future years.