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Tualatin middle-schoolers plant rain garden

Hazelbrook classes learn about water cycles, treatment


A total of 96 Hazelbrook Middle School sixth-graders participated in a volunteer project to create a rain garden to purify storm water returning to the Tualatin River on Oct. 17. (Submitted photo)The 15 Tigard and Tualatin teachers who traveled to Peru last June each took something different away from their global perspectives class. Some felt inspired to build curriculum around the region’s folk art; others were struck by the traditional music.

But Marjean Bigelow couldn’t get past the water.

The sixth-grade social studies teacher was amazed 16th century Spanish settlers established the capital in Lima, a coastal city with very low rainfall and little potable water.

She was struck by the fact children in Lima still suffer from a lack of clean drinking water.

Bigelow, who has taught in Tualatin for 17 years, brought this interest to her classroom at Hazelbrook Middle School.

“I teach about the Incas, and so we learned the history,” she said. Then, “we talked about water, and the kids didn’t know where their water came from.”

Students learned Tualatin got its water from Bull Run, and purchased it through the city of Portland — a timely connection, as the city of Tualatin and the Portland Water Bureau were in the middle of a heated contract dispute that led to legal mediation.

Bigelow’s students studied the Tualatin River Watershed. They learned how water is treated, and that run-off water returns to nearby Tualatin River.

Bigelow remembered being struck, too, by Lima’s resourcefulness: A system of fog nets taps into the massive amount of humidity that hovers around the city, then converts it to water.

Bigelow was inspired to make the unit hands-on.

One of the city’s many volunteer projects addressed water quality, Bigelow explained. Just down the street from Hazelbrook was a site that was integral for treating storm water and runoff. The city wanted to create a “rain garden,” or bioswale, where native plants filter the water before it returns to the Tualatin River. The city would provide the plants and mulch.

“They have all the means, which as a school, we don’t have,” Bigelow said.

Ninety-minute block class periods gave Bigelow ample time to walk her students to the site, where they planted and mulched in hour-long shifts.

Ninety-six students participated in the project, transferring Oregon grape plants, snow berry and red twig bushes.

“By the time we were done, they had planted 390 plants,” Bigelow said, and used nearly two truckloads of mulch.

“We just do the manpower. They help us to learn. I create a curriculum around it.”

The classes will finish the unit with a tour of the Durham Advanced Wastewater Treatment Facility on Nov. 6. According to Bigelow, Clean Water Services has agreed to pay for transportation.

“In November, we’ll start learning about early civilizations,” Bigelow said. “The first thing we’ll talk about is how they are established. One of the things we keep hitting over and over is, ‘Where are (ancient civilizations) located? Where do they set up these early civilizations?’ It’s near a water source. Wars are fought over water. It all goes back to water.”

To read more about the project, visit Bigelow’s website, www.mrsbigsclass.blogspot.com. To view other volunteer opportunities in Tualatin, visit www.tualatinoregon.gov/volunteer.



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