It was a short, but awesome field trip. Snoqualmie Elementary students dressed for the weather, and for mud, worms, plants, tools, and more mud. They squelched through, dug up, and pretended to get stuck in mud up to their ankles, and teachers encouraged the nearly 400 kids who participated to rub the mud between their fingers, to get an idea of the texture they needed for planting.
Over two days earlier this month, the students visited Snoqualmie’s Centennial Fields park next door, working in shifts to build a rain garden. They planted sedge, sallal, and currant in what had been a drainage ditch, and they understood why they were doing it: Their wetland, running behind the park and school, was starting to show signs of trouble.
“We’re very invested in our wetland,” said SES Principal Kerstin Cramer. The older students periodically test its water quality with help from the Mountains to Sound Greenway.
“The tests this year are the first time they haven’t gotten anything but good and pure water,” said Aaron Clark, the rain garden project manager with Stewardship Partners.
Sediments found in the tests included brake pad residue and motor oil, likely from the nearby parking lot. Stewardship Partners received a grant from the city of Snoqualmie to develop a rain garden, to counteract some of the effects of runoff from the parking lot.
“A lot of these plants will not only catch debris and sediment in run-off, but also transform it,” Clark said, breaking it down to elements that the plants can take in.
Initially, Clark had planned several community work days to build the garden, until Cramer saw the opportunity for her students and suggested the partnership. Clark and his team met with each SES class to talk about rain gardens and their purposes earlier in the week, then brought them out to the park for the hands-on experience.
Kevin Hoang, right, and Jaden Bratton, both in fifth grade, get instruction from Danette Hruska on planting their sallal so they can go help some of the younger students with their own plants.
Lined up according to footwear, the "boots" students each receive a carex, or sedge to plant in the most muddy area of the rain garden, the bottom of a drainage ditch, recently cleared of blackberries by city of Snoqualmie crews.
A Stewardship Partners volunteer helps SES second graders get started on helping to create a new rain garden next to their school.
Teacher Jacque Barry directs her second graders Melia Olson, left, and Olivia Roberts across the squelching ground to help their classmates with plantings in a new rain garden at Centennial Fields Park.
Nicholas Chow, left, and Charlie Smith laugh as they discover how easy it is to get stuck in the mud while looking for the perfect spot to plant their sedges in the new Centennial Fields rain garden. Carol Ladwig/Staff photos