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!

SLEWS returns to Yanci Ranch!

Grant Union High School at Yanci Ranch
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | December 12, 2019

Participating School
Grant Union High School

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Rominger Brothers Farms

Mentors
Kathy Rightmire, Director of Development, Center for Land-Based Learning
Dani Gelardi, UCD Graduate Student
Carolyn Kolstad, Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
MJ Farruggia

Summary of the Day
Yanci Ranch, a cattle ranch about 7 miles north of Winters, has hosted three SLEWS projects in the past – and this year, the project is large enough that we will have two schools adopting the site! Grant Union High kicked us off with the first field day, two years after their classmates completed a project on the same property.

A foggy morning obscured the beauty of the site, which includes a picturesque pond and views of the hills (though that made for a fun surprise when the fog cleared later that morning!). We began our day as we always do, in an opening circle. Landowner Bruce Rominger introduced the site to the students and Amy Williams of Yolo County Resource Conservation District shared the project details before we broke the ice with a game of group juggle.

After gathering our supplies and putting on mud boots, we walked down to the project site. Bruce had used a slip plow to pre-bury a line of irrigation, so our first steps would be to measure along the line and place flags every 10 feet. One mentor group tackled this, while the others followed and installed emitters and spaghetti line at each flag. This was harder than it sounds as the line was buried – to access the line, students had to first dig down to it! Grant Union student’s keen eyes noticed many signs of wildlife throughout the morning, from deer on the way in to millipedes, centipedes, and frogs along the planting area. We even found some cow bones – this is a cattle ranch, after all! After installing emitters (!), Bruce was kind enough to give students a demonstration of how the slip plow works. He showed students how the spool of irrigation tubing fits on the back, and as he drives the tractor, the line is buried under the soil.

One irrigation was complete, students plug planted sedges and rushes in an area susceptible to erosion. These plants will help alleviate this problem while also contributing to the quality of habitat.

After a well-deserved burrito lunch, students got a chance to talk with each mentor about their education and career paths. Since they will see these mentors at each field day, it was also a great opportunity to get more comfortable with our Yanci Ranch team!

A very blustery day at Clark Ranch!

SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | November 8, 2018

Participating School
Grant Union High School

Location
Clark Ranch 2 in Davis, CA – the southern of two projects at this site

Partners/Landowners
Yolo Resource Conservation District
Rominger Brothers Farms
Bruce Clark

Mentors
Amelia Munson, UC Davis graduate student
Jen Metes, Research Associate, Consero Solutions
Julea Shaw, UC Davis graduate student
Ha Truong, NRCS Agricultural Engineer
Mandi Finger, Associate Director, Genomic Variation Lab

Summary of the Day
The morning of our first SLEWS Field Day of the season brought an unexpected and unwelcome surprise – 25 MPH winds! Luckily, Grant Union students arrived with great attitudes and were eager to get started on the restoration task of the day.

Using a barn as a windbreak, students enjoyed breakfast before we gathered together for a SLEWS tradition – the opening circle. Bruce Rominger, President of Rominger Brothers Farms, joined us to introduce the project site and talk about how the restoration work the students were about to begin would positively impact his almond and walnut orchards. Students, mentors, restoration partners, and Center for Land-Based Learning staff introduced themselves, and we played a game called “Where the Wind Blows” to identify commonalities within our group.

After opening circle, it was time to brave the wind and get started on our project for the day – installing a drip irrigation system! Drip irrigation will provide each plant with an individual water source, preventing excess weed growth and conserving water. Staff from Yolo Resource Conservation District showed the mentor groups how to poke holes in the line to push in “emitters”, which will regulate the water flow to each individual plant. Each group installed emitters on a section of the planting area, and when everyone finished it was time to check their work. Alex Hasbach, Farm Manager of Rominger Brothers Farms, turned on the irrigation system much to everyone’s amusement – in spots where emitters weren’t properly installed, water shot everywhere! Luckily, Grant students did an excellent job and there were few of these “sprinklers” to be found.

Finally it was time to break for a much-anticipated (and much-deserved) burrito lunch. After lunch, Caring for Our Watersheds Coordinator Beth Del Real led students in an activity to help them visualize the earth’s water supply, and why water conservation is so important. Students were each given a blank puzzle piece representing an area of land to develop as they wished – some built giant mansions, others created water reservoirs, and one student even built an ice cream shop! Once we assembled the puzzle, we had a great visual of a watershed and discussed how the developments they made might affect the water supply.

Thanks for an incredible first Field Day, Grant Union students, mentors, and project partners!