The steelhead in Jack Creek caught the attention of the Kalmiopsis Elementary School students. They marveled at the fish, a demonstration of the important work the children did that day.
Outfitted in rubber boots and work gloves, children from Dawn Bennett's fourth grade class from Kalmiopsis Elementary School took a field trip Friday to Salmon Run golf course to plant trees and learn more about riparian habitats.
The students planted native trees and shrubs along the bank of Jack Creek that runs through the golf course. The riparian restoration project is part of an ongoing project between Curry Watersheds Partnership, local school children and Salmon Run golf course.
"The golf course is mindful of the creek running through it," said Statia Ryder, watershed education coordinator. The partnership has been monitoring the creek since 2005.
In addition to planting trees along the creek, the children have monitored water in the ponds at the golf course for the last year. The monitoring is part of a project to see if trout could potentially be stocked in the ponds for fishermen.
Ryder said that sixth graders from Azalea Middle School have been testing water all year in addition to the work the fourth graders have done. She said the data collected will be important further down the road.
"We're getting the kids in touch with the watershed. You can't have these kinds of experiences in the classroom," Ryder said.
The children planted a variety of native plants, including redwoods, hemlock, red flowering currants, dogwood, cedar, and Douglas fir to improve the habitat.
"It provides shade for the fish so the water doesn't get too hot," said Brogan Rodne, fourth grader. "The trees help hold the soil together and the cool water can hold more oxygen, which helps the fish breathe better."
Volunteers from the golf course had cleared blackberry bushes from the area, but the students still found some roots in the soil.
Brynne Whaley and Lorenna Zamola worked hard digging up a blackberry shoot that had already come back. They dug around the plant and eventually removed it.
Miguel Rodriguez said he learned that it was important to put fertilizer in the ground before you plant a new tree. Rodriguez and Braiden Spencer planted a red twig dogwood that will eventually grow wide and flower.
Bennett said the trip was the culmination of four weeks of studying watersheds in the classroom; a great opportunity for hands on learning and reinforced what the students learned in third grade about the salmon cycle.
While it will take years for the trees planted to grow, the trip provided a valuable lesson in watershed habitats and their impact on salmon and steelhead.