by Shawna Lee, staff member
Every week for 30 minutes or more, between 10 and 20 students pitch in to pull thistle, blackberry and invasive reed canary grass from a large area of our campus along North Creek. Clearwater's School Meeting partnered with Snohomish County Surface Water Management and Clearwater Commons to restore and replant an area along the creek with native trees and shrubs. The goal is to create better riparian habitat for Chinook, Coho and sockeye salmon that spawn in the creek, as well as many other species of native fauna and flora.
School Meeting made a commitment to provide volunteer time to maintain the restoration site. For the most part, students enjoy being outdoors and working together to give the new plants a better chance to grow and thrive by decreasing weed competition. Many students have become quite skilled at spotting low-growing weeds and knowing which plants are newly planted shrubs and which are similar-sized weeds. It can be tricky in the depths of winter when everything is mostly leafless.
In early December, three girls tackled a patch of blackberries. Eight-year-old Johnna had already taken on grubbing out Himalayan and evergreen blackberry as a personal mission in previous weeding sessions, and was committed to pulling the entire root. Many of the blackberries are fairly small, so pulling the whole thing took focused attention, but wasn't too physically taxing.
After they had already been working nearly 30 minutes, Johnna and her friends, Zoe (8) and Krista (19), tackled an 8-9-foot-long blackberry cane. They cut off the thorny part above the ground before working on the root. Johnna was relentless. Even though everyone else had completed their 30 minutes and left the work area, Johnna was committed to removing the root no matter how long it took--and she wanted to get it out by herself. Krista held branches aside to give Johnna room to excavate the root and Zoe became a cheerleader of sorts, taking on the role of a sports announcer by holding a trowel like a microphone and giving a blow-by-blow narration of Johnna's progress and blackberry whacking prowess.
A large piece of root was extracted and Johnna was triumphant. In this video, you can see a bit of their elation and pride when the job was done.