It is hard to believe the school year is about to begin (again). It seems like yesterday we were visiting schools daily to lead hands-on, experiential activities in the classroom. As it turns out, it wasn’t only yesterday but for the last ten years!
Clean Creek Campus Celebrates 10 Years!
Clean Creek Campus celebrated its 10-year anniversary with sixty students from Hill Elementary School who participated in a service-learning day at Northwest District Park. A participating teacher captured the student experience – scavenger hunt, pond exploration, seedball making, and litter cleanup – as, “The students got to be a part of the community. It is important for them to see that a small action on their part goes a long way.” City of Austin Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo presented Hill students with a city proclamation solidifying their part in continuing a legacy in which over 16,000 students have contributed. The success of Clean Creek Campus can be attributed to the ongoing collaboration with the City of Austin Watershed Protection Department and area schools.
This year alone, 20 schools (and 2,100 students!) participated in 19 restoration projects and overhauled 10 school gardens. When we think of the 2,850 hours of student service, Mathews Elementary School 3rd grade teacher Mrs. Nguyen message rings true, “This program helped us solidify our unit on communities because we learned how to make a difference in our world.”
Here are a few of our favorite moments from the year:
What Once Grew Weeds, Now Grows Veggies!
Back in September 3rd graders from Williams Elementary School arrived on campus after summer break to find their garden beds overflowing with Bermuda grass. Eager to work, they pulled Bermuda grass and other weeds from their raised beds to prepare the soil for a fall crop. Removing all of those weeds revealed hidden kale, chard, and zucchini plants left over from the spring planting. The harvest was both unexpected and yummy. A new fall crop was planted with much anticipation. In the spring, the 4th graders got their hands dirty harvesting fall and winter veggies and planting a new crop.
Tablets, Micros and Macros Oh My!
Gardens are not only for plants…something special happens when a tiny garden grub takes the big screen! The students at Langford Elementary used Dell tablets and attachable microscopes to view garden macro-invertebrates. Through magnification, students gained a lens into complex soil ecosystems and gained a respect for critters who call their garden home.
Wicking Garden Beds – A Reservoir for Conservation and Teaching!
Gardens continue to take the spotlight. The students at Vista Academy learned how to build an edible garden that keeps their veggies raised up high and conserves water. Four classes of 3rd and 4th graders constructed two raised bed gardens complete with their own water reservoirs. The wicking beds hold water under the soil, allowing the plants’ roots to wick the water from below and limiting evaporation. This simple garden-bed style is perfect for plants to stay happily hydrated during the long, hot summers.
Not Your Ordinary School’s 7th and 8th graders braved the summer heat in May to clean up Walnut Creek Metro Park. Beyond picking up trash, students explored the creek for signs of life and rolled native seedballs to reseed eroded areas. New career opportunities also unfolded in the process. “The kids get to see that adults can have cool jobs and share information with you,” noted teacher Amy Cunningham. “Kids need different experiences to help them grow.”
We are ready to start the cycle again…school-year cycle that is! Registration now open for the 2015-2016 school-year. Teachers and parents, join us to see what we can grow at your school.
Clean Creek Campus is implemented in partnership with the City of Austin Watershed Protection Department and made possible by generous support from 3M, Republic Services, and Silicon Labs.