From the Classroom

Students work to restore Tolay Ranch Creek

Cherry Valley Elementary School students worked to restore part of the Tolay Ranch Creek last week as part of their Watershed Classroom project 'Acts of Caring.' Teachers from 2nd/3rd and 4th/5th grade combined classrooms brought their students together to work with a partnership of local organizations to learn more about how watersheds work and how they can help rehabilitate habitat. Students were led in their work by staff from the STRAW (Students & Teachers Restoring A Watershed) program and worked on land managed by the Sonoma Land Trust as part of their curriculum learning about the Petaluma River.

After a 15 minute walk through the hills beside grazing cattle, the habitat restoration team reached its target location, a bend in the creek that had been heavily eroded by storms and run-off. 

After a demonstration by STRAW staff regarding proper tool use, planting best-practices and safety, the students jumped in, working in groups of 2-5 students with parents there to support them when needed. Forming a line of small teams, the students received tools and supplies to start planting.

Students planted Blue Elderberry, California Coffeeberry, and California Blackberry, all native plant species, to help stave off erosion and build bio-diversity.  As part of the planting activity students dug holes for their plants, secured the newly-planted varieties with cardboard to keep them clear of weeds and formed wire barriers to protect them from being disturbed before they mature. Students also observed plants still thriving after similar trips in 2014, 2013, and 2012, seeing firsthand the impact of their work and that of students before them. 

The students had a fun and rewarding day working outside in a hands-on project focused on watershed health and conservation. The 'Acts of Caring' project is lead by a three-teacher team from both Cherry Valley and McDowell Elementary schools. The purpose of the project is to develop knowledge, pride and stewardship among 2nd and 3rd graders toward the Petaluma River and Watershed, highlighting its connection to our lives and the greater watershed of the San Francisco Bay. Students worked throughout the morning and early afternoon and planted about 3 -5 plants per group, helping to restore a remarkably beautiful and important part of our River habitat.