A hybrid SLEWS Field Day

Woodland High School at the Maples
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | April 22, 2021

Summary of the Day
For weeks now, I have been working with Woodland High School teacher Jerry Delsol to plan a virtual SLEWS field day of sorts for his students. We previously coordinated for him to attend one of our volunteer habitat restoration SLEWS Field Days in December (read more here), which he broadcast live to his students back in the classroom. Students were able to interact with our adult volunteers, see the site, and even ask questions of their own! 

We planned to do something similar at our headquarters at the Maples in Woodland, focusing more on the restoration and wildlife monitoring plans being implemented onsite. Some of his students were even part of the class that participated in our first year of SLEWS at the Maples (blog posts here and here!), so they’d be able to see how much the native habitat they planted has grown! When I met with Mr. Delsol the week prior to the field trip, I was thrilled to hear that he’d be able to bring a small group of students to the field day to participate in-person, while still broadcasting live to students attending school from home.

Students arrived bright and early on Thursday morning, meeting us at the “bioswale” their class created last SLEWS season. This SLEWS project included transforming a stormwater retention basin into viable habitat. I introduced the project to the class, and showed the next phase of the project (an adjacent hedgerow), which volunteers planted this past winter. Then we moved to the side of the bioswale to a wildlife monitoring camera set up by Center for Land-Based Learning’s Ecologist Jeanne Wirka. Jeanne introduced herself and her work at the Maples, where she is currently gathering baseline data on the wildlife and pollinators present. She’s already begun getting snapshots of wildlife from the motion-activated camera facing the hedgerow – including a coyote whose scat one student spotted! 

After meeting Jeanne, students split into three groups to rotate between different activities.

I led students in a native plant identification workshop and shared about how scientists press plants to create herbariums, preserved collections of plants in an area. Students then collected clippings of plants in the hedgerow to create plant pressings of their very own. Some of the species identified included California poppies, lupines, common fiddleneck, and yarrow.

Jeanne taught students about cavity nesting birds (and why it is difficult for them to find nesting habitat) before showing each group how to install a bluebird nest box on the Maples campus. They looked at nest boxes installed a few weeks ago by Yolo County Audubon, and even found an egg in one of them!

Mr. Delsol led a soil sampling activity in the nearby ag fields, looking at soil types and sampling the compost as well.

Meanwhile, Mr. Delsol’s student teacher engaged with students attending the livestream by asking them questions and leading them through the activities so they were active participants. Though this was a very quick field day (we only had 1 hour!) it was amazing to finally engage with students in-person.

How to outsmart a gopher

The Maples
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | February 3, 2021

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Center for Land-Based Learning Headquarters at the Maples
Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation

Volunteers
Dominic Carrillo
Miles DaPrato
Irene Loy
Sarah Gaffney
Ric Murphy

Summary of the Day
It always feels great to put the finishing touches on a restoration project, and that was just the plan for our third and final field day at CLBL Headquarters at The Maples. We had planted 205 plants on our first two field days, installing protective tubing and a thick layer of native straw mulch around each plant to finish it off. Since our first field days, native grass seeds had been spread on either side of the pollinator hedgerow.

Our first task on this day was spreading straw over the seeded area. This was tricky – we had to spread the straw thick enough to provide moisture retention benefits, but thin enough to allow sunlight to pass through! As we were working, one of our volunteers with a background in the arts remarked that they had “never worked in this medium before”, and I found this a lovely juxtaposition of science and art.

Once we finished spreading the straw, we headed to the stormwater retention basin, where last season Woodland High School installed native hedgerows, grasses, and forbs. We found that the milkweed that had been planted didn’t do well here – likely due to a very active gopher population! To combat this, this time we planted milkweed rhizomes in “gopher baskets”, small metal baskets buried underground meant to protect the plant’s roots from pests. We planted about 100 showy milkweed rhizomes in these baskets, along with 100 narrowleaf milkweed plugs. Hopefully we have better luck this time around establishing a milkweed population – and therefore creating breeding habitat for monarch butterflies!

The second phase of hedgerows at the Maples

The Maples
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | December 9, 2020

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Center for Land-Based Learning Headquarters at the Maples
Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation

Volunteers
Miles DaPrato
Sara Bernal
Joel Jorgensen
MJ Farruggia
Katie Wrightson
Ric Murphy
Chris Jadallah
Joel Jorgensen
Corey Shake
Kendra Just
Bri Grosskopf
Ric Murphy
Dominic Carrillo

Summary of the Day
For our first “double header” SLEWS day (two field days in one!), we were at Center for Land-Based Learning Headquarters at the Maples. As you may recall, Woodland High School students participated in a SLEWS project here last year, installing a native plant hedgerow and grasses in the stormwater basin (see the blog posts here: https://landbasedlearning.org/blog/category/slews-program/the-maples/). This year’s project would be somewhat of a continuation of that project, a hedgerow and native grassland perpendicular to that site and extending around an adjacent ag field.

We began the day by installing an irrigation system, working as a team to lay out the irrigation line and install emitters. We followed by planting 205 native plants in the very dry soil – we had to use pickaxes in order to loosen the ground enough to plant! Many of these plants were planted in metal baskets to protect the roots from pesky gophers. We also installed a protective tube around each plant to protect it from wind, herbicides, and pests. The morning volunteer crew got through about two thirds of the planting before the afternoon crew arrived to finish up. Then we began on the next task – mulching! Yolo County RCD had strategically placed native grass straw bales along the hedgerow, and we applied a thick layer of mulch around each plant to assist with moisture retention and prevent weed growth. Finally, to prepare for the native grass seeding to come in a few weeks, we cleared a bunch of cobblestones from an area they had been discarded. Looking forward to watching this hedgerow mature right outside our office doors!