Creating wildlife habitat on a school campus

Grant Union High School in the GEO Academy Garden
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | April 1, 2021

Funded by
Sacramento Municipal Utility District SHINE Award

Summary of the Day
A little over a week after our first SLEWS Field Day at Grant Union High School we were back for our second day, which took place over the students’ spring break. Our first day had been spent clearing out the planting area and enriching the soil, so the site was ready for the next step of its native habitat transformation – installing the plants!

At our opening circle, each student shared which superpower they’d most like to have and introduced the group to a plant we’d be installing that day or one they’ve already seen in the GEO Garden. Then we headed out to the planting site to get started.

The first step was using rakes to level the ground and break up any large clumps of soil. Then students worked together to install the irrigation line. Once this was done, the students were challenged to set up the planting area based on the planting plan their teachers had provided. Roles were assigned – project manager, assistant project manager, etc. and students had long and lively discussions about the best way to lay out the plants. Once they finished, teachers provided feedback and students adjusted the plant layout to better follow the planting plan. Students made indentations at each planting site and filled them with water to saturate the soil before planting per the garden manager’s instructions.

We took a break for a burrito lunch to give the water time to sink in. After eating, students finished digging holes and planted all of the plants. Students installed an emitter at each plant to ensure it would receive the proper amount of water, and added spaghetti tubing where necessary to make sure the water would reach the plant. Finally, we put a layer of mulch around the plants to discourage weed growth and increase water retention. We finished just in time for a quick closing circle before sending students off to enjoy the rest of their spring break. I’m looking forward to our third and final field day later this year, when hopefully we can get more students involved with the project!

SLEWS with students – FINALLY!

Grant Union High School in the GEO Academy Garden
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | March 23, 2021

Funded by
Sacramento Municipal Utility District SHINE Award

Summary of the Day
A SLEWS Field Day? With High School students? What has been the program-standard for the past 19 years of SLEWS became an impossibility in our 20th year due to COVID-19 – until now.

As everyone surely recalls, the beginning of last fall was filled with uncertainty. How long would distance learning last? Weeks? Months? All year? Would students be able to participate in SLEWS at all? Grant Union teachers had these same questions and contacted me at the beginning of the school year with the great idea to do a SLEWS-style restoration project on their high school campus. This would take the trickiest part of in-person COVID-safe field days (transportation) out of the equation, allowing students to participate in SLEWS as soon as they were allowed on campus again.

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) awarded us funding to complete this project, but as of March, in-person instruction has still not resumed. We are nearing the end of prime planting season, so we wanted to get going on the project, and we found a solution to make this happen with Grant High School students!

Our Grant Union High School Thousand Strong interns have clearance to be on campus and were eager to help us get this habitat restoration project off the ground. The goal of the first field day was site preparation, and we set to work after an opening circle that included a round of “two truths and a lie”. Two students were tasked with digging a trench to extend the irrigation system to reach our project area while others cleared out (and composted) the sycamore leaves littering the site. Then we worked together to turn all the soil and get it ready for enrichment. Our planting area is adjacent to the incredible Grant Union GEO Academy garden, so we took advantage of this resource to give the soil a boost. Students were instructed on how to clip the cover crop to create green compost which will be incorporated into the soil along with compost from the GEO compost piles.

Next week we will return to turn this beautiful soil into a native plant hedgerow!

A big project on a windy day

River Garden Farms
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | February 4, 2021

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
River Garden Farms
Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation

Volunteers
David Marks
Ruby Marks
Gabrielle Stadem
Sarah Gaffney
Anna Tolle
Bri Grosskopf

Summary of the Day
For our second double-header field day at River Garden Farms, we were at a new location on the road to River Garden Farms HQ. We had planned 2 SLEWS projects here for this year, hoping that 2 classes of students would each adopt a section of the hedgerow for their 3-day project. Alas, COVID-19 had other plans, but we were lucky to have a dedicated group of volunteers come out to get this project started!

We started our cold and windy morning by watching a planting demonstration by Joanne Heraty of Yolo County Resource Conservation District, and we learned with semi-recent rains we had some of the easiest digging all year ahead of us! Remember, this was meant to be a double SLEWS project, so this hedgerow was LONG! By the end of the first shift (lunchtime) we had finished maybe ¾ of the planting, so our afternoon crew arrived and finished the planting portion. Once all 480 plants were installed, we set to work on installing the irrigation system, laying out the line and following up with emitters. By the end of second shift, we were halfway done with emitter installation – I told you this project was ambitious!

Looking forward to our last double field day at River Garden Farms next week where we will mulch along this hedgerow.