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New education director takes reins at Tryon

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO The Friends of Tryon Creek recently recognized Education Director Stephanie Wagner for her 27 years of dedicated service and accomplishments and toasted her retirement. Pictured with Wagner are Friends’ executive director David Cohen, left, and incoming Education Director Matthew Collins.

After almost five years of leading the Friends of Tryon Creek education programs, Stephanie Wagner has retired as education director with Matthew Collins stepping up as the new coordinator.

Having been involved with Friends of Tryon Creek for 30 years, Wagner recalls how her position as director came about.

'I was on the board of directors, and we had lost our third education director in three years. So I asked the board if I could give it a try.'

Wagner has also served as executive director of the Friends group. During her many years of hard work and innovative programs at Tryon Creek, she looks back at a few of her accomplishments.

'We more than doubled attendance of the field trip and camp programs,' she says. 'And it was also very rewarding running a successful $650,000 capital campaign to remodel the Nature Center and add a classroom.'

She is also very proud of the role Tryon Creek plays in the community.

'We are a leader in environmental education, with strong ties to school districts and universities throughout the Portland Metro area.'

Collins intends to continue and strengthen the programs that Wagner started.

With a master's degree in educational leadership, he will teach three Portland State University capstone courses, where juniors and seniors work with community partners while they are doing service in the community. Collins is both the professor and community partner, and the college students will learn how they can be part of the nature guiding program and learn techniques for engaging children. Then one day a week they will guide a program at the park.

And all fifth and sixth graders in the Lake Oswego School District will be able to continue their relationship with Tryon Creek. Last year the Friends provided watershed tours of Oswego Lake for these students. In order to learn about how water functions in a natural landscape, the students went to the headwaters of Springbrook Park, then to Campbell Native Garden on Iron Mountain Boulevard and then on to the other side of the dam at George Rogers Park where water flows into the Willamette River. Students also learned about how animals such as moles in their tunnels infiltrate water into the soil and the beneficial roles animals play in watersheds. Because the program is on a two-year rotation, this year's sixth graders will see a different program than they saw as fifth graders last year.

In spring 2011 Friends of Tryon Creek also went to every single elementary school in the Lake Oswego School District to teach students about how water functions in a natural system and how their school impacts upon the system.

Collins looks to the Friends as an organization within the community that is capable of providing high-quality education for all the students in a non-formal way.

'I do think that some of the students have been impacted,' believes Collins, 'and have had an opportunity to think about Tryon Creek as this great treasure that is nearby.'

He wants the community to understand that Tryon Creek isn't just 'a little forest in the park but also an important watershed with abundant animal habitat in our community.'

It all starts at the headwaters of Tryon Creek, near Multnomah Village, where rainwater hits the hillside, goes through some different neighborhoods, into Marshall Park on the other side of Boones Ferry in Portland, then flows into Tryon Creek Park and on into the Willamette River.

Both Wagner and Collins agree that Friends of Tryon Creek is a wonderful organization with a devoted staff. Collins will continue to explore the Friends' educational mission of connecting people to the living earth. And Wagner's 'retirement' won't keep her from still being involved with an organization so dear to her heart.

To reach Friends of Tryon Creek, call 503-636-4398.