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Soapbox: Girl Scout helps grow plants, minds

Emily Frantz is a resident of Tualatin.

Most people would agree that supporting native plants in Oregon and offering younger students the chance to participate in science experiments are both good things. But what if you could get both at the same time?

That was my goal when I began planning a native plant garden at Athey Creek Middle School. A group of volunteers and I broke ground on June 18 with the support of the school district, CREST (Center for Research in Environmental Sciences and Technologies), the Girl Scout Council of Oregon and Southwest Washington, and the Green Team — a group of environmentally concerned students at ACMS. By Aug. 1, the plants were in and labeled, the educational material ready and the raised beds decorated.The actual time to build the garden was five days with a changing mix of five volunteers coming each time, but the process began months earlier. I organized the installation of the garden in pursuit of my Gold Award (the Girl Scout equivalent to the Eagle Scout award). The Green Team, organized by ACMS Leann Gallien, was eager to build a native plant garden but was without funding, an easy watering system or cleared area for planting. All they had was a small 4-foot square piece of dirt enclosed by four hay bales with small plants that got watered every once in a while and were doomed to die once summer arrived.After months of organizing with the Girl Scouts and the West Linn-Wilsonville School District; shooting emails to Leann Gallien, Girl Scout adviser Nancy Muniz and Amy Schauer from CREST; obtaining donations from local businesses for materials; and holding a starter plant sale, the garden is ready for ACMS students to enjoy next year.The garden cost less than $400 thanks to the generous donations of local businesses including Parr Lumber, Bosky Dell Natives, Metro: Native Plant Center and S&H Landscape Supplies and Recycling.

Inside and around the two colorful 8-foot-by-8-foot raised beds are 32 native Oregon plants and an area for experimentation for students to use. A guide with detailed care instructions for each plant and a page on the importance of native species to the biospheres in Oregon was also created for the project. My hope is for the garden to educate and provide opportunities for students to implement their own ideas for solving environmental problems.As a member of Girl Scout Troop 40181, I took on this project to earn my Gold Award. To receive a Gold Award, you must display leadership skills in completing a proposed project, with at least 80 hours of service, and take part in a final interview before the council. A Scout also must complete two “Journeys” — projects where the Girl Scout takes action on certain issues in order to help her community. My Journeys focused on local sustainable food and resource equity. Only 5.4 percent of eligible Girl Scouts successfully earn the Gold Award.I am excited that it is finished and hope that it will serve the students at Athey Creek Middle School well.

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