Habitat Restoration with Mira Vista School’s Inspired Environmentalists

smile (2)“I hope the bees like these flowers!” exclaimed Rennae, a third grade student from Mira Vista School in Richmond. Students spent a wonderful day in Alvarado Park planting native flowering plants and caring for their local Wildcat Creek. They were very excited to walk to the creek from their school! As they got closer to the creek a student named Jawon commented, “Look! There’s the creek, I can hear it too!”

Jeff McKenna from East Bay Regional Parks District and KIDS for the BAY Instructor John Greiling organized the creek restoration project. Every student planted a native perennial flower, mulched it and watered it. Third grade student Rennae explained, “We are spreading mulch to keep in moisture.” A total of 62 plants were planted and the two plants selected for the project, Penstemon Heterophyllus and Grindelia Hirsutula, have blue and yellow flowers – the same colors as Mira Vista School!

Students enjoyed the opportunity to take action for the creek and teachers were glad to get new ideas on how to use the local watershed habitat as a science teaching resource. Third grade teacher Rachel McLachlan said, “I am excited to bring my class to this spot next year and show them the great work we did. We could also start a new planting site next year!”

This is the third year for the KIDS for the BAY School Wide Watershed Action Program at Mira Vista School. This program was funded by the Dean Witter Foundation and NOAA B-WET and has provided academic enrichment for 480 students and professional development for 14 teachers since 2012. We are proud of our teacher partners, who will continue to teach this program to future classes of students, and make sure that environmental education continues to be part of the curriculum and culture of Mira Vista School.

Taking Action for Arroyo Viejo Creek

RestorationArroyo Viejo Creek, which flows through East Oakland, near Cox Academy School, also flows through the grounds of the Oakland Zoo. Third grade students from Cox Academy had a wonderful experience helping the environment by restoring the creek, and visiting the zoo!

Students used their hands to simulate a watershed and demonstrate how the rain falls and fills creeks like Arroyo Viejo where a diversity of organisms lives. KIDS for the BAY Instructor Aislinn Sterling explained that students would be helping the creek by pulling out weeds. Invasive plants make it difficult for other plants that keep the creek healthy to grow. Students, teachers and parents got to work and discovered all kinds of organisms. They investigated fallen galls from oak trees, mushrooms, spiders and beetles, as they worked to help the creek.

As students walked along the path beside the creek as part of a scavenger hunt they found flowers, blackberry bushes, birds, squirrels, spider webs, bird’s nests and other flora and fauna. Several California newts, with bright orange bellies were discovered in the creek. Ms. Sterling reminded students that these were some of the animals they were helping by keeping the creek healthy!

To end a wonderful day of stewardship, students, parents and teachers visited the zoo. As they studied all the beautiful animals, Ms. Sterling asked the students to identify some possible adaptations. Students named the giraffe’s long tongue and the elephant’s trunk as adaptations that aid in the survival of these organisms.

The visit to the zoo was a wonderful treat for our hardworking scientists and environmentalists from Cox Academy.

Food Chains Rock!

foodchainsrock_250x375Food Chains Rock!

Students from Washington Elementary School in Richmond really enjoyed learning about San Francisco Bay food chains! They learned about apex predators, decomposers, scavengers, the difference between a food chain and a food web, adaptations, and the anatomy of Dungeness crab, striped bass fish, and seaweed. Students were excited to touch seaweed for the first time. Many described it as being gooey and “interesting.” Students were surprised to learn that seaweed is adapted to become completely dry and then rehydrate following the movement of the tides at the rocky shore.

Students were very excited to investigate Dungeness crab and striped bass fish anatomy by touching the animals and answering critical thinking questions.

After their hands-on experiences with different organisms, students learned how all the organisms they investigated are connected to other organisms in San Francisco Bay food chains including humans, and how the health of one organism affects the health of everything in the food chain.

Reiley shared, “Today I learned that seaweed does not have roots, it has holdfasts. And if seaweed gets dried out from the sun it can rehydrate.”

Natalia shared, “Today I learned that crabs have tails[abdomens]. Male crabs have a triangle shaped tail and females have a “U” shaped tail.”

Malaysha shared, “I learned from KIDS for the BAY that a female Dungeness Crab can hold 2.5 million babies!”

From Images to Action!

fromimagestoactionFourth graders at Lupine Hills Elementary School in Hercules were surprised to see the impact trash can have on bay and ocean organisms. After they discussed and analyzed the images of animals harmed by marine debris, KIDS for the BAY Instructor Aislinn Sterling asked the class why they thought she showed them these pictures and why scientists would take pictures like these.

A student named Victor said, “I think these images help people understand why pollution is such a serious problem”. Another student observed, “The picture of the turtle makes me sad because it makes me think of my own pet turtle at home.” Ms. Sterling agreed with them and said that sometimes seeing pictures—especially of things we care about like animals—makes an issue feel more real and inspires people to take action to protect the environment. After the lesson, students were excited to participate in a Clean-Up of their school and neighborhood and be part of the solution to the problem of marine debris. Students were surprised to discover they picked up 857 pieces of trash between their two classes!

After the lesson, students wrote what they had learned, these are some of their responses:

“Today I learned that marine debris is really bad for animals.  If we litter animals can eat it and die or get stuck. We should not litter. If you were an animal you would not want to get stuck or die so don’t litter.” –Arianna M

“Today I learned that marine debris means ocean trash.  Marine debris is bad for animals. It can kill them, but you can help by cleaning up anywhere you see trash.” –Kiara

“Today I learned that garbage and pollution can go in storm drains and become marine debris that can hurt animals.” –Leilani

Environmentally Friendly Pesticides Action Project

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Did you know that 78 million households in the U.S. use home and garden pesticides? Third grade students and teachers at Learning Without Limits Elementary School were surprised by these numbers and they became very concerned when they learned about the toxicity of pesticides. They decided to make natural pesticides for their school garden and to teach their parents how to make them. KIDS for the BAY Instructor Alicia Thompson led the project and it was a great success.

Students Sophie and Jayla were both ecstatic to begin cutting jalapenos and garlic. “I’ve cut these up before!” one said. “Yes, I could easily make this again at home!” the other one responded. The students were happy to be actively helping their environment. They felt empowered knowing they were helping plants grow. At the end of the day students made recipe cards to share this important recipe with the community.

20th Annual Wildcat Creek Clean-up

wildcat_cleanup“You mean, you came here today to clean our community?” Ximena, a seven year-old resident of San Pablo was so thankful about having volunteers clean up her beloved playground that she immediately asked how she could help. Every year, KIDS for the BAY partners with the City of San Pablo to bring the community together and pick up trash in and around Wildcat Creek. Families came together on Saturday, October 11, 2014 for the 20th Annual Wildcat Creek Cleanup Event and spent three hours picking up 4,203 pieces of trash. Equipped with latex gloves, tongs and trash bags, elementary and middle school students from San Pablo made the creek and surrounding park a better place for the community.

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