Marysville students learn to help the Earth

Ethan Williams, a fifth-grader, holds a salamander discovered by another student during a tree-planting event at the Jones Creek Environmental Learning Center on April 27. - Lauren Salcedo
Ethan Williams, a fifth-grader, holds a salamander discovered by another student during a tree-planting event at the Jones Creek Environmental Learning Center on April 27.
— image credit: Lauren Salcedo

MARYSVILLE — The Jones Creek Environmental Learning Center was abuzz with activity on April 27, when more than 100 elementary students spent the morning hours in the Allen Creek tributary area planting trees in order to “help the Earth.”

Donning rubber boots and wielding shovels, the fourth- and fifth-grade students from the Marysville Cooperative Educational Program at Marshall Elementary — plus a number of parents and volunteers — chose from a selection of native tree species and went to work.

The tree-planting exercise was part of a larger community action organization called Project Seawolf Coastal Protection, which originally aimed to help save the orca population in Puget Sound and around the world. These days, Project Seawolf organizers host tree plantings and salmon habitat recovery and other educational programs.

“These projects are important because they introduce children to environmental stewardship,” said Michael Kundu, volunteer director of Project Seawolf. The students planted 1,500 seedlings of primarily native deciduous species such as red alder, shore pine, poplar, aspen and vine maple.

“It’s been great for the kids to come out, get dirty, get muddy and have fun — and it’s a part of their science curriculum,” said Kundu, who added that the organization has hosted tree-plantings in Marysville before.

“We’ve had kids come back years later and see their tree and say, ‘It’s as tall as me now,’” he said.

Many of the kids were students of Hank Palmer who said that the MCEP makes a specific effort to spend time on science in the classroom.

“Kids here learn science four days a week,” said Palmer, who added that a lot of schools focus on math and reading due to standardized testing requirements. “Last year 88 percent passed the MSP in science, which is a very high number.” The MSP (Measuring Student Progress) is a state standardized test for grades 3-8. The state’s MSP scores in science usually average closer to 50-60 percent, according to the Office of the Superintendent.

“Science is really important to us,” said Palmer. “And the kids do really well with it.”

The kids said they enjoyed the tree-planting exercise and wanted to help the Earth.

“It’s good to help the animals that are living out here stay alive,” said fourth-grader Aneliese Jones.

Gracie Wilkinson, also in fourth grade, said she was helping plant trees because trees help us. “They produce oxygen we need to breathe,” she said.

Another student liked planting trees to help the ecosystem. “It helps the animals, the orca whales. All the water goes to them,” said Abby  Wilson, a fourth-grader.

Students weren’t the only ones benefiting from the event. Young volunteers also made the trip, including former MCEP student and recent Marysville Getchell High School graduate Nicole Reynolds.

“This is my fifth year volunteering,” said Reynolds, who has helped in classrooms and in camps. “There’s always a lot of field trips and parent participation. This school really helped me learn.”


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