For the past six years, the Jones Creek Outdoor Learning Center has been a multi-partner effort to provide Marysville students with science and environmental learning opportunities, and facilitate the restoration of the wetland and salmon stream habitat along an 11-acre parcel of land owned by the Marysville School District.
The project began in Steve Malmstead’s fifth grade classroom at Allen Creek Elementary. While teaching a unit on salmon, their class stumbled upon a headline from a local newspaper that was to become the “spawning ground” for environmental education. The front-page article titled: “The Dirty Truth About Allen Creek” caught the students’ attention, since Allen Creek was also the name of their school.
The students consulted experts to learn more about water quality and the dangerous levels of fecal coliform in the stream. Through these investigations, bridges were formed with local city, county, state and tribal surface water professionals, as well as other community groups with interest in the environmental health of Marysville’s watersheds. As the class learned more and more, students sensed that their knowledge of science should lead to action.
A City of Marysville surface water specialist suggested that students focus their effort on investigating and restoring a portion of a salmon-bearing stream near their school. Accordingly, the class discovered a wonderful, yet underutilized, resource in their neighborhood: the district-owned property along Jones Creek, a tributary to Allen Creek. While this 11-acre wetland and stream habitat was is poor condition, it afforded students the opportunity to observe salmon and wildlife, conduct environmental investigations and perform stream restoration, all of which foster a life-long attitude of land stewardship.
Since then, increasing numbers of teachers and students have visited Jones Creek for science investigations coupled with their ongoing effort to clear invasive weeds and restore the stream’s riparian zone. Encouraging and supporting their work have been many community partners, who have provided both teaching and technical assistance, plus materials for habitat restoration projects. These partners include the City of Marysville, the Stilly-Snohomish Fisheries Enhancement Task Force (Task Force), the Tulalip Tribes, the Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians, Boy Scouts of America Troop #81, Marysville Kiwanis, and the Allen/Quilceda Watershed Action (A/QWA) Team.
Thus, the Jones Creek Outdoor Learning Center has evolved into a community-based restoration and environmental education effort, offering excellent opportunities for Marysville students to engage in project-based, hands-on learning that not only builds critical thinking, observation and problem solving skills, but also provides for integrated academic learning around environmental issues. Overall, over 1,700 Marysville students have visited the site, with more to come: each 5th grade classroom will visit Jones Creek this school year for hands-on learning about water quality as part of a partnership that began in 2007 between the Marysville School District, the Stilly-Snohomish Fisheries Enhancement Task Force and the City of Marysville.