DAY LIGHTING WOODACRE CREEK
Wilderness Way was asked to participate in the educational component of this
$325,000 project funded by five public agencies. The science, math, art and
film making curriculum potential was a perfect fit for Sally Hutchinson’s
and Bonnie Nackley’s classes in Lagunitas School District Middle School.
Site Study and Documentary
In early summer of 2003, a student film crew visited and studied the
Woodacre site using site plans provided by the County. They explored the
fish unfriendly culvert that was put in many years ago to accommodate two
tennis courts and swimming pool. The film crew marked the new creek
alignment, recorded debris in the old creek, and measured the culvert by
walking through it with a measuring wheel. “177’ long”, they squealed as
they jumped off the end of the culvert and continued to measure and study
the creek to the terminus of the project.
Permit problems caused a years delay in starting construction but the 6th
graders, now 7th graders, continued fish studies by participating in
Wilderness Way‘s Steelhead-in-the-Classroom program. Students picked up
steelhead eggs at the Warm Springs Fish Hatchery, studied, kept a journal,
and made a film documentary of the life cycle process from egg to alevin to
fry. Then they returned the fry to their native stream with “Wishing Poles”
and flute ceremony to wish them safe journey. By the way, we used steelhead
eggs because salmon eggs are illegal and the process is very similar.
Students were thrilled to see the steelhead egg hatch into an
alevin in class.
With permits in place construction began and commenced throughout the
summer. Wilderness Way volunteers documented the entire noisy, dusty
process. Kids who lived in Woodacre monitored it. The highlight of the
summer was seeing the old, fish unfriendly culvert replaced with a high tech
arched, flat bottomed, fish friendly culvert which reopened an additional
1/2 mile of spawning habitat. Yes!
Planting and “Watering”
School started. The 7th graders were now 8th graders. Despite the hormones
raging at this time of life the kids kept a science journal, did art
projects and daily watered about 200 plants that WW kept in a “nursery” by
the Environmental Ed Center. WW took students on four field trips to
Woodacre to plant native plants in designated areas in the riparian habitat
below the arched culvert. Marin Conservation Corps and the County made it
easy by digging holes with augurs in the rock hard soil. Students learned
to install “plant jello” a unique combination of water, cellulose gum and
alum that is put in a round plastic cylinder and installed alongside the
plant. It liquifies slowly and is easy to replace. It is the perfect
solution when water is not available.
After the plants were installed former WW students from Drake High School
returned to install salmon crossing signs that Middle School students made on
each side of Woodacre Creek on Crescent Drive.
High school students from the Valley installing signs made by
Lagunitas School students.
In addition, they made a major sign to announce the community celebrartion
and placed it at the entrance to the Valley next to Sir Francis Drake Blvd.
Fifty 8th graders made a salmon cover, with over 50 panels, for the
unveiling of the kiosk. The kiosk described the salmon life cycle, project
history, funders and displayed student poetry and art work. Students made
and reorganized the Wishing Poles for the celebration and made salmon
The Saturday Community Celebration was an intimate gathering of local
families and individuals putting in last minute plants, seeing the film
documentary of the project, unveiling the kiosk and then standing along the
creek side as students carried Wishing Poles up the dry creek bed to the new
flat bottomed culvert. Paul Berensmeier, in a ribbon shirt, played a native
cedar flute to the four directions honoring the salmon. After 50 years of
closure they would return after the winter rains and be able to go through
the culvert and once again, spawn one half mile further upstream. A
NATIVE AMERICAN STUDIES
Miwoks, native to Marin county, used tule reeds to build light boats that
they used for crossing bays, gathering eggs and waterfowl as well as for
gathering plants for food, medicine and utilitarian objects.
Tule Boat - 18’ long
These 4th and 5th grade students built and paddled this tule boat from
Heart’s Desire Beach across the small bay to a rebuilt Kule Loklo village in
the Tomales Bay estuary (see Photo Gallery). Tules were gathered and the
boat made using native methods.
3rd graders used extra pieces of tule to make other objects like duck decoys
for hunters, mats for sitting, sleeping and preparing food and dolls for children.
Wilderness Way instructor and flautist Paul Berensmeier brought River Cane
to School and taught the children how to treat the cane, use a math formula
to burn in the holes, decorate it and play it.
COHO SALMON AND STEELHEAD STUDY PROJECTS
Salmon Crossing Signs
Salmon and Trout crossing signs are part of the coho salmon and steelhead
trout curriculum. Students study the shapes and colors in preparation for
creating the signs. They go on field trips to determine where the spawning
routes are as the salmon migrate from the Pacific Ocean into the Tomales Bay
estuary and then 17 miles inland to the San Geronimo Valley to their natal
streams. Students learn to see they share the valley with these long time
residents and their responsibility to preserve, steward and restore their
The first Salmon Crossing sign was placed on School Road bridge on Larsen
Creek. This creek bisects the San Geronimo and Lagunitas school on the
Lagunitas School District campus. The success of the first salmon crossing
sign brought accolades and inquiries for more signs.
Students studied the anatomy and physiology of coho salmon and made fish
drawings using stippling techniques. A colored interlocking spiral drawing
and Free Verse poetry was integrated.
COMMUNITY SERVICE - EARTH DAY PROJECT
This photo was taken on Earth Day at Samuel P. Taylor State Park . The
Park provided funding, Wilderness Way the staff and the Lagunitas School
District. This collaboration resulted in 27 student made signs which
students installed at four Park bridges and the entry kiosk. District
Assemblyman Joe Nation joined us for the final installation and an Earth Day
ceremony to Call Back the Salmon.
This program is designed to study endangered steelhead trout. Students pick
up trout eggs at Warm Springs Fish Hatchery in Geyserville, California and
bring them to school where they are placed in a prepared fish egg incubator
built by Wilderness Way during a workshop sponsored by Trout Unlimited.
Students monitor their growth from egg, to alevin, to fry with a video-flex
camera and camcorder, keep scientific journals, and do math as well as art
and poetry as integral parts of the project. Preparations for this spring
project includes fall field trips to see coho salmon jumping the series of
rock pools known as the Inkwells at the east end of the Valley. Until
significant winter rains, the Inkwells are a barrier for salmon to return to
their natal streams and spawn in the San Geronimo Valley.
WISHING POLE PROJECT
Wishing Poles are made to Call Back the Salmon in a joyful ceremony before
the winter rains. See Publications for a “How to” sheet that tells you how
they are made and the spirit behind their creation. They can be adapted to
SAN GERONIMO VALLEY WATERSHED MODEL PROJECT
Here students are discussing the intricacies of creating a model from a two
dimensional topographic map to a 3’ x 6 ‘ three dimensional model (see Photo
A student is checking the first contour level of the model against the
tracing of the topographic map of the San Geronimo Valley.
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