My Volunteer Experience
The Columbia Slough Watershed Council (CSWC) works directly with several of my passions: outdoor place-based education, service learning projects and stewardship. I volunteered with their Slough School education program, which works with students in the surrounding schools.
Staff members visit classrooms and teach students a wide range of topics, such as water quality and native plant species. Students also come to restoration sites to learn in the natural environment. The CSWC provides opportunities for service learning projects (planting native plants), and learning about the eco-systems through water chemistry tests, observing micro-invertebrates, and identifying species and habitats.
-Whitaker Ponds-Outdoor Classroom-4th Graders-
I volunteered at a community site near Fairview (just off I-84) with a 5th grade class. The students planted native species to beautify the area and create a sound barrier next to a busy road. They also did water chemistry tests to explore Ph, oxygen, and temperature; learning how these things effect water quality.
A couple of the students grew tired of the project quickly, but the vast majority were thrilled to be outside, getting their hands dirty, and helping their community.
One student said, “I wish I could do this every day!”
Since the class wasn’t able to plant all the plants on site that morning, many of the students were asking to return the following day to “finish the job.”
Almost all of them wanted to stay longer, a testament to the power of placed-based education!
Many of the field trips take place at Whitaker Ponds, (also the CSWC office site). Students have planted hundreds of native species there this year. I volunteered at this site twice, assisting with plantings, water quality tests, and micro-invertebrate studies.
It’s so great to watch the children become scientists and stewards, enjoying their natural world.
If you are a teacher interested in having your class volunteer with the CSWC and creating a plan of study with the Slough School, contact:
Sheilagh Diez, Slough School Education Director
Phone: (503) 281-1132
(Note: The program fills quickly. I recommend contacting her spring/summer before the school year begins.)
A big thank you to the staff and volunteers at CSWC for all they do with the community and fostering a sense of stewardship with our youth! It was fabulous getting to know your organization.
Note: I encourage you to check out Whitaker Ponds. Located at 7040 NE 47 Ave, a ¼ mile north of Columbia Blvd., The area is a pubic park, with two ponds, a canoe launch into Whitaker Slough and a half mile loop trail. Although it’s a small pocket of nature in the middle of industrial Portland, it’s home to many species. On a recent birding event I attended there, we saw 35 species of birds in just two hours! (FYI- No dogs allowed)
Watch this great 5-minute documentary on Whitaker Ponds – really well done.
Suggested Reading Material on children and the outdoors: Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv- check it out here.
Want to Learn more about the CSWC and the Columbia Slough? Check out my other posts in this four-post series.