Despite the wind, chill, and rain during our late January planting trip, my students more than enjoyed their time in the fields at the Chehalis Discovery Trail. They were overjoyed to help plant willow live stakes in the riparian zone along the Chehalis river. They were able to use several planting tools to help dig the holes for the trees and to pound the trees deep into the ground. They partnered up and hauled the bundles of willow sticks down the trail so they could help plant them. Students also willingly helped pull the invasive species, Reed Canary Grass, away from the established trees from previous plantings, understanding that if they did not do this the trees would be choked out. After they ate lunch, they went back for one last sweep.
I saw students eagerly bringing more bundles of trees down the trail to make it easier on a younger class that planned to plant in the upcoming days. They then started searching for abandoned mallets and other tree planting tools and bringing them back to the vehicles to be loaded up while double checking that each plant was firmly in the ground as they passed them one last time. The next day at school when I asked how they liked the field trip, they could not stop talking about how they would love to do it again. The joy in their hearts inspires me to look for more community service opportunities for them that help the environment. I’m eager to teach them how the trees they planted also protect soil, provide wildlife habitat, provide shade, create windbreaks, and will keep the river clean. This information is new to them and will encourage them even more to take an active stance with caring for their environment. My students will be proud to learn that they are helping fight climate change with the planting of each tree. Through the natural process of photosynthesis, trees absorb CO2 and other pollutant particulates, then store the carbon and emit pure oxygen.
I was also so excited about what I witnessed I could not wait to share with my family. It was my first time planting a willow tree. It shocks me that these sticks will turn into a tree one day and will be able to survive with all the Canary grass present. I am looking forward to taking my family on a hike at the Chehalis Discovery Trail to see how the trees my former students planted as seedlings have grown and how these willows will grow.
Submitted by Danette Jones, Hi-Cap teacher in the Rochester School District