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Take a walk on the Wildside

Pleasant Valley Elementary School raises funds for boardwalks in its outdoor, environmental classroom


On a warm April afternoon, six Pleasant Valley Elementary School sixth-graders offer a tour of their beloved science classroom.

“We’re the Wildside Crew and we’re here to say, let’s make PV (Pleasant Valley) better in a greener way,” they rap. “So take a walk on the Wildside all of you, and while you do, plant a tree or two.”

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Students from Pleasant Valley Elementary School lead the way to their personal trees in the school´s 10-acre greenspace.

Spanning 10 acres adjacent to the Gresham school, The Wildside is a forest restoration project that began in 2007.

During the past six years, 2,500 students, staff and community members have logged more than 4,000 volunteer hours clearing acres of blackberry bushes, weeds and other invasive species.

They’ve created an environmental education center complete with a bird, bee and butterfly garden, owl boxes and raptor perches.

“In other classes, we read textbooks,” says student Karina Kiryuta. “In this class, we actually get to come out and observe — to be face-to-face with nature.”

The goal is for The Wildside to grow into an environmental education center for all schools in the Centennial School District to enjoy.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Pleasant Valley Elementary Schools greenhouse allows students to start young trees that will be planted later in the green space.

Now Pleasant Valley students — including Karina and her classmates Taylor Lane, Jaden Lanning, Alyssa Hall, Briana Marcan and Peoni Cha — and staff members are eager to install a system of boardwalk trails to protect the Wildside environment and make it more accessible as a community green space.

Metro has granted Wildside $125,000 for the project, but the school needs about $70,000 more in matching money to receive the grant. The school is holding an auction Saturday, May 11 to raise money for boardwalk trails.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - The Three B Garden, fenced in to protect it from deer, is one of the most popular areas for the students.

“We want people to love the Wildside without loving it to death,” says David Scharfenberg, sixth-grade science teacher. “By keeping them on a trail, we prevent damage to the Wildside but allow people to see it and learn about it. There will also be seating areas, info signs and kiosks.”

If all goes according to plan, students from the Academy for Architecture, Construction and Engineering (ACE), a public charter school for students from Parkrose, Reynolds and Centennial schools, will build the boardwalks as summer employment beginning this June. The goal is for the boardwalks to be completed by June 2014.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Students have their own Wildside Crew t-shirts.

“We want to give people the ability to go into The Wildside and see what we’ve done and learned,” says Briana Marcan, a student.

On any given week, rain or shine, sixth-grade students spend one to three days on The Wildside.

Split into three rotations, the students are preparing an orchard with hearty kiwis, pears and apples that will be available for students to eat; using pressure-treated posts that will become raptor perches and restoring pond areas to protect Red-legged frogs.

They observe nature, weed the garden and help fix the bark chip tracks. They “adopt” trees, admire wildlife and learn about ecosystem science firsthand.

Wildside is home to about 4,000 native trees, a greenhouse, a learning circle and a rain garden in the works.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Science teacher David Scharfenberg spearheaded the idea of a natural green space on the school grounds.

“The idea is sustainability — doing as little as we can so that the ecosystem balances itself out,” Scharfenberg says. “This is a full living and learning forest that will grow and succeed itself.”

The Wildside also features five projects conducted by the Eagle Scouts and a Three B — bumblebees, hummingbirds and butterflies — Garden designed in part by students, with a double helix-themed pathway and mosaic hangers.

The love of The Wildside has spread from sixth graders down to the school’s first-graders, who come out to observe bugs and search for garter snakes.

“Science is all about The Wildside. That is what we do,” Karina says.




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