by: JAIME VALDEZ. - Tigard High School students Cinthya Barrera and Micaela Gonzalez, plant a tree along the Fanno Creek Trail in Tigard. The students are part of the Cascade Education Corps, which does environmental work across Washington County.For most students at Tigard High School, science class brings to mind images of classrooms, experiments and lessons on the periodic table, but 17-year-old Jacqueline Perez’s science class is a bit, well, different.

Perez, a senior at Tigard, is one of about two dozen students in the school's Cascade Education Corps, a team of young scientists who work across Washington County learning about environmental stewardship.

“It’s awesome,” said Carly Williams-Oswill, 18. “We get to learn about the environment and what we live by. It’s fun because we can go out and name all the plants, which we could never have done two months ago.”

“It’s a more visual way for us to learn,” added Micaela Gonzalez, 18.

Dressed in work gear and heavy boots, the students worked through a mild rain storm on Thursday morning to plant about a dozen white oak trees along a recently completed portion of the Fanno Creek Trail, a miles-long trail system that stretches from Garden Home into Tigard.

The planting was originally planned for December, but freezing temperatures postponed the work until this week.

Planting trees each April has become an Arbor Day tradition in Tigard. The city — which declared all of April to be “Arbor Month” — often partners with a school in the Tigard-Tualatin School District to plant trees.

City planner Marissa Grass said this is the first year the city has partnered with the high school for an off-campus project.

The students were joined by Tigard Mayor John L. Cook and Metro Councilor Craig Dirksen, who said the students' work would help to improve the city's urban forest — a collection of trees across the city.

“Thank you all for coming out,” Cook told the students. “It’s beautiful Oregon sunshine, today. It comes in liquid form and helps the trees grow.”

The Cascade Education Corps spends two days a week on habitat restoration projects, said program coordinator Jo Linden.

Students work on salmon restoration, conservation, repairing riparian corridors and other projects with the Tryon Creek Watershed Council, Clean Water Services and other agencies.

“It makes it feel like we are making a difference,” said Perez, a senior at Tigard. “We can walk past and say, ‘Hey, we did that.’ We get to see them grow and know that was us. It’s nice to see that we are doing something and contributing to the community.”

National Arbor Day is the last Friday of every April — this year it falls on April 25.

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