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Squaw Creek Central Elementary Conservation Service Learning project

By Staff | Apr 25, 2018

Nevada elementary students gather for instructions from Luke Gran, forester and project leader on the Squaw River Bank project, in a huge effort to slow erosion on the river banks.



NEVADA – Hundreds of Nevada Central Elementary School students converged on the Hughes Van Deusen Farm Partnership property north of Ames on a mild school day on March 28 to “Meet a Challenge” with the Squaw Creek.

The project, known as Junior Foresters: Service Learning Project “Pluck, Plant, Pickup & Place, and Phike” is a first-year partnership between Prudenterra, the land owners and the school district.

The lesson plans were co-written by forester Luke Gran, with Prudenterra, and Nevada Community School District teacher Kedra Hamilton.

Luke Gran and his volunteer team members balance on the Squaw Creek, with one lucky Gilbert High School student providing emergency back up should a student slip into the river. Pictured above are Gilbert High School students C.J. Buss and Amy Taylor; Dan Houg, from Prairie Rivers of Iowa; Penny Riggins, Des Moines Area Community College student, and Gran.

“The theme for our school this year is ‘Meeting the Challenge’ and this is a great way for the entire student body to participate in a project outside of the classroom,” Hamilton said.

The 16-year educator leads first- and second-graders.

“It is so exciting to be here today and watch this come together.”

There were 250 students participating in the event.

Dick Van Deusen, one of the property owners, was also present for the day.

“Dave Hughes, my neighbor, and I have been real excited about this project,” he said as he snapped photos with his cell phone. “These kids are doing a great job following directions. I’m archiving as much as I can for my daughter who is a teacher and couldn’t be here today.”

He added there are issues with erosion along the Squaw banks.

“Yes, the erosion is increasing. The creek hasn’t widened, it has deepened with all the tiling on land north of us,” he said. “With 3 or 4 inches of rain up north, the water now rises to where you are standing.”

It wasn’t always like this.

“When we built the house, it only rose to that tree,” Van Deusen said as he pointed to an elevation some 12 feet lower than the walkway. “There have been consequences to the downstream areas from tiling changes up north that no one imagined. This project is one step for controlling and educating the communities about water erosion.”

Gran, a project leader, titled titled the work day to describe the activities scheduled for the woodland and river bank area.

“High school and college students volunteered to identify and pluck invasive plant species,” Gran said. “Then, elementary students plant native shrub seedlings and live stakes to improve diversity on the sites and manage future stream bank erosion. Next, the kids will pickup and place rocks beneath drainage tile outlets reduce the energy flow and redirect water flow which reduces soil erosion in the short term.”

He added the rocks were spray painted bright colors, making them easy to see and recognize as the project progresses.

“Finally, the elementary students will go on a phike to explore and learn more about woodlands in Iowa,” Gran said. “This is only the beginning of partnerships with schools and we are excited to continue the restoration of the woodlands.”

Funding for this innovative project was provided by ITC Midwest, Trees Forever, the Central Elementary Enterprise Fund, and Alpha Copies.

Prairie Rivers of Iowa also volunteered in this conservation project. The cooperation between community, schools, and private organizations is the first in Story County to work on water erosion.

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