The Mighty Mentors of SLEWS

SLEWS Program | Central Valley | January 27th, 2022

Location of the Field Day:
The Maples

Partners/Landowners:
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Point Blue Conservation Science
Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation

Mentors/Volunteers:
Jeanne Wirka, Alex Lintner, Beth DelReal, Heather Lyon, Morgan Caudill, Anna Tolle, Ric Murphy, Sara Lipschutz, Brandi Murphy, Nick Gallagher, Joaquin Pastrana, Grace Ferguson, Amy Williams, and Natalia (SLEWS Intern!)

Accomplishments: 12 native grasses and 86 shrubs/sub-shrubs planted with tubex, bamboo stakes, and fully mulched! 800 feet of drip irrigation installed.

Summary of the Day:
A total of 14 SLEWS mentors and volunteers came together to complete the east hedgerow on The Maples property. Despite the absence of students, we were able to kick off this field day “test run” in the typical SLEWS fashion. Volunteers got the opportunity to engage in a project from start to finish, planting a total of 98 plants complete with drip irrigation, mulch, gopher baskets, tubex, and bamboo stakes. Preparing for the day students return to the field in February, mentors had the opportunity to ask clarifying questions, get to know the partners they would be working with, and of course enjoy the famous SLEWS burritos at the end of the day rewarding all the hard work they had completed.

Thanks to everyone for their contributions! A special thanks to Yolo RCD who helped with the implementation plan and took care of our plants before the long awaited planting day. Additional thanks to NRCS and Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation whose support makes this project possible.

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!