Submitted by Brian Goff
This last winter we had extraordinary rain.
Standing water was a problem in many places, including the Lopez School playground and the trails of Lopez Hill. Overwhelmed drains turned our playground into a pond and students lost a play area. Unable to absorb the excess runoff, trail beds became creeks and lower trails of Lopez Hill were difficult to use.
Collaborating with Amanda Wedow of San Juan County Land Bank and Skeet Townley of the Bureau of Land Management, teacher Brian Goff and Lopez Island third-graders took on trailbed creeks and erosion as a service-learning project.
From a classroom perspective, Next Generation Science Standards target weather-related hazards and engineering solutions to natural problems. Trail drainage and erosion gave us opportunities to meet goals with hands-on service-learning. We observed standing water as a weather-related hazard and decided to take action. After scouting the Lopez Hill trouble spots, students designed systems to drain standing water.
The trails of Lopez Hill became our classroom and students hiked to work and made headway with goals to improve trails for users. To ease the amount of water flowing in trails, under the supervision of Wedow and Townley, 9-year-olds moved rocks, logs and earth to create more effective drainage. Diverting flowing water with earth and rock, clearing existing trail drains and cleaning trails was a gratifying and fun project, and students found ownership in their muddy work.
In our service-learning, we met educational goals for NGSS standards. My bigger-picture goal was for young students to see themselves volunteering in their community and collaborating with local agencies. We became empowered stewards of public land and I hope students take away the mindset for future community service. Perhaps the biggest goal was to have fun on the beautiful trails of Lopez Hill. Who can resist cold weather hikes with the crisp slanting sun, searching for meaning in muted winter forests, puddle jumping with friends and getting extra muddy in rubber boots?
Can you believe this is school?
Check out Lopez Hill and enjoy our trail upgrades. Thanks, SJC Land Bank and BLM for your enthusiastic support. And thank you third-graders, for the inspiration.