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Local students explore and learn in watershed areas

Students from Scappoose and St. Helens will be visiting local watershed areas and helping remove invasive plants over the next few months as part of the Estuary Partnership's watershed education program. The Estuary Partnership will be taking classes of elementary school students to the Julia Butler Hansen Refuge, Scappoose Bay, Sand Island and Coffenbury Lake.

According to a press release, students will experience these local areas and help restore habitat by removing invasive plants, like Himalayan blackberry, and planting native trees and shrubs. These field trips will be followed by a series of hands-on classroom lessons delivered by the Estuary Partnership that use the Columbia River as a 'living laboratory.'A total of 600 students and 23 teachers from Naselle Elementary in Naselle, Wash., JA Wendt Elementary in Cathlamet, Wash., Lewis and Clark Elementary in Astoria, Otto Petersen in Scappoose and Lewis and Clark Elementary in St. Helens will receive these lessons.

The Estuary Partnership delivers hands-on science programs to thousands of students in urban and rural areas along the lower Columbia River in Oregon and Washington each year.Questions the program will explore include: 'What is a watershed and how can you keep it healthy?' 'Which plants are native to our area?' and 'How do non-native invasive plants effect healthy environments?'

'We are delighted to be able to offer this intensive hands-on program in so many communities along the lower Columbia,' said Estuary Partnership Executive Director Debrah Marriott. 'Research says that we retain over 75 percent of what we experience compared to less than 30 percent of what we read and hear. And as school budgets tighten, fieldwork is often cut. It is a great partnership. Giving children this learning opportunity also gets them outdoors. Kids are out far less than a generation ago and they don't always feel prepared or comfortable to be 'in nature.' Our work with students ensures the investments we make today in habitat restoration and toxics reduction will be sustained in the future.'

The Estuary Partnership was established in 1995 by the governors of Washington and Oregon, and the Environmental Protection Agency, to advance science and improve the environment in the lower Columbia River and estuary.