Strawberry Creek meanders west from the Berkeley Hills through the UC Berkeley Campus and down to the San Francisco Bay. During the 2015-16 school year, fourth grade students from Rosa Parks Elementary School in Berkeley studied the Strawberry Creek ecosystem, and helped to restore a special creek habitat on UC Berkeley Campus. Students planted 60 red flowering currant plants, pulled out 10 wheelbarrows of invasive English ivy, and removed 154 gallons of trash from the riparian habitat. They also monitored the health of the creek, and taught college students about the importance and history of Strawberry Creek.
This spring, as fifth graders, the same students returned to investigate the question, “How did our restoration work affect Strawberry Creek?” When she saw her flowering currant plant, Louisa, a fifth grade student exclaimed, “I can’t believe how much my plant grew! I really did not expect that at all! It’s bigger than I am!” The students looked at pictures from when they transplanted the red flowering currents in October of 2015. Ben compared leaf counts. “Back then, there were only five leaves on my plant. Now there are 98! Now this plant is a whole ecosystem and home to lots of invertebrates.”
“I can see that our restoration work paid off,” said Megan. There are worms, beetles, rollie pollies and more animals living in this habitat today. Last year I hardly saw any invertebrates. That means that this habitat is growing because of our work!” Students also considered the impact restoration had on erosion. Matilda shared, “Because we planted red flowering currents, which are good at holding onto soil with their deep roots, we decreased erosion.” “This helps the fish and other animals in the creek because if there is too much soil they can’t breathe or find food,” added Grace.
Rosa Parks Elementary School teacher Suzanne Ingley was very proud of her students. “It’s so great that we have returned to see our plants. The students are really engaged and curious about them. They are excited about their restoration project and they are making connections back to last year and to other science lessons we have done this year. I hope this will continue to deepen their connection with their local creek. Think of how proud they will be when they attend college here!”