Good Stewards

By Bill Rautenstrauch, The Observer March 18, 2013 08:13 am

(CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)
(CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)
 

by BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH / for The Observer 

Take care of the earth, and the earth will take care of you.

 

For third-graders from Central, Greenwood and Island City elementary schools, that message came through loud and clear during the annual Future Stewards Day event Thursday at Riveria Activity Center.

It was summed up by Nez Perce tribal member Solo Greene, who taught the youngsters about the earth’s circle of life, and reinforced at a number of other interactive stations in and outside the center.

As the event got underway, Greene said the Nez Perce understand that people should take what they need from the earth, and no more.

He said that news reports about global warming, the melting of ice caps and the rising of rivers, indicate that people need to do a better job of taking care of the planet.

Every species is important, he said.

“We Nez Perce have a saying, that the earth is our mother, “ Greene said. “I might not like to meet mosquitoes or snakes or mice when I am outdoors, but everything is connected and everything has a purpose.”

In each of the past four years, the City of La Grande Public Works Department has teamed up with environmentally-conscious agencies to teach kids the fundamentals of earth stewardship. Presenters talk trees and plants and wildlife, the importance of good air and water quality, the need for recycling, and more.

“The purpose is for kids to learn about the environment, from water to air to nature, and how it all comes together,” said Deb Cornford, a city public works employee and a principal event organizer. “I think the kids look forward to it, and the teachers do a good job of encouraging it.”

 

At one station, La Grande Urban Forester Teresa Gustafson showed a panel of aerial photographs comparing communities with healthy urban forests with others that don’t have much in the way of trees. The contrast was stark.

“The river’s brown,” one child observed of a channel of water running through a treeless city.

“Yes, and it looks hot there,” Gustafson said, then pointed to a photo of a city with healthy trees. “Here, it looks much nicer.”

Kids learned much more about trees from Gustafson. She passed around a cross section of a tree, demonstrating how to tell the tree’s age by its growth rings. The cross section showed the outer bark, inner bark, sapwood and heartwood. Invisible to the eye but present, Gustafson said, was the cambium cell layer, the growing part of the tree trunk that produces new bark and wood.

 At another station, Mariel Doyle, a student teacher from Boise State University, talked about the way plants help keep the air clean. The kids got some hands-on horticultural training, planting pumpkin seeds.

Doyle said that when youngsters come to the Future Stewards Day event, they bring enthusiasm with them.

 “They have a pretty good concept of the environment, and their teachers have a good base built in,” she said.

The Grande Ronde Model Watershed was on hand to teach the students about local rivers, Doug Harsin of the City of La Grande talked to them about water conservation, and Sara Fenn of City Garbage gave a demonstration on recycling.

A visually arresting station was set up courtesy of Lynn and Bob Tomkins, founders of the Pendleton-based Blue Mountain Wildlife. They brought with them live specimens, a red-tailed hawk, a barn owl, a great horned owl, and a kestrel. The birds roosted calmly on a crossbar, and didn’t seem to mind being on display.

Blue Mountain Wildlife cares for sick, injured and orphaned wildlife, working hand-in-hand with wildlife professionals from throughout Northeast Oregon. It has been a fixture of Future Stewards Day since the beginning.

“Rehabilitation is just part of what we do. Education is really important,” Tomkins said.

Lynn said the La Grande event affords an opportunity to teach youngsters about how wild creatures interact with the environment, and some of the dangers they face.

“Birds need clean air, water and food, just like us,” she said. “Here, the kids are learning to be good stewards.”

McKenzie Morrison, an eight year old from Central, said one of the most interesting talks she’d heard that morning had to do with water conservation.

“I’ve learned that water has been here billions of years, ever since the world was created, and that it can be re-used,” she said. She added that she was itching to get over to the Blue Mountain Wildlife display.

“This is really fun. I think the most fun will be the birds. I’ve seen them before, and they’re neat,” she said.

Justin Randolph, also an 8-year-old from Central, said he enjoyed watching a demonstration of the City Garbage truck that picks up household waste and recycled items.

“They have this claw that picks up the garbage cans,” he said. 

Randolph said he learned during the demonstration that recycling is a good thing. 

“It’s important to recycle stuff so people don’t litter and have the world get messy,” he said.Take care of the earth, and the earth will take care of you.

For third-graders from Central, Greenwood and Island City elementary schools, that message came through loud and clear during the annual Future Stewards Day event Thursday at Riveria Activity Center.

It was summed up by Nez Perce tribal member Solo Greene, who taught the youngsters about the earth’s circle of life, and reinforced at a number of other interactive stations in and outside the center.

As the event got underway, Greene said the Nez Perce understand that people should take what they need from the earth, and no more.

He said that news reports about global warming, the melting of ice caps and the rising of rivers, indicate that people need to do a better job of taking care of the planet.

Every species is important, he said.

“We Nez Perce have a saying, that the earth is our mother, “ Greene said. “I might not like to meet mosquitoes or snakes or mice when I am outdoors, but everything is connected and everything has a purpose.”

In each of the past four years, the City of La Grande Public Works Department has teamed up with environmentally-conscious agencies to teach kids the fundamentals of earth stewardship. Presenters talk trees and plants and wildlife, the importance of good air and water quality, the need for recycling, and more.

“The purpose is for kids to learn about the environment, from water to air to nature, and how it all comes together,” said Deb Cornford, a city public works employee and a principal event organizer. “I think the kids look forward to it, and the teachers do a good job of encouraging it.”