Many people deepen their connection to nature by enjoying a nature education class or participating in a volunteer opportunity. These experiences provide guided introductions, group camaraderie and opportunities to learn something new about plants, wildlife, or history in the region’s parks, trails, natural areas and historic cemeteries.
Throughout the year, Metro’s nature educators help students of all ages discover nature close to home. From field trips to the ancient forest at Oxbow Regional Park to twilight hikes at Smith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area to mushroom hunts and campfire demonstrations, there’s an array of ways to connect with the outdoor world at Metro’s parks.
Over the past several years, Metro has worked on a new approach to its community nature activities, with the goal of making them more inclusive. Working with communities of color, Metro co-creates culturally specific and relevant education and stewardship activities. Through hands-on activities like planting and caring for trees and native plants, understanding invasive species, community science projects and plant gatherings, these experiences provide opportunities to connect to each other, build reciprocal relationships with the land, create a sense of belonging and learn about plants, wildlife, and history in the region’s parks, trails, natural areas and historic cemeteries.
The education program saw more than 500 more youth participants than the previous year, a 50% increase.
Planting sedge at Smith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area
Columbia sedge once grew thickly along the edges of the Columbia River, but it is now a critically imperiled species. Many people mistake them for weeds, but actually sedges play an important role in the ecology of the Pacific Northwest.
These hardy, grass-like plants help prevent erosion, remove toxins from soil and water, and are a crucial food source for many species of waterfowl, mammals and insects. Many animals also use them for shelter and concealment. Native amphibians use them to attach their egg masses. Sedge rhizomes (horizontal underground stems) create a dense underwater network that traps nutrient-rich sediment and creates healthy habitats for riverside wildlife like frogs and newts.
More than 50 volunteers participated in the event, planting about 1,500 sedges. The family-friendly event drew volunteers of all ages and experience levels. Each volunteer was given a trowel, gardening gloves and a quick tutorial on how to plant sedges. Then they spread out around the wetland's low-lying areas, where sedges can thrive.
From: "Sedge Fest brings volunteers to Smith and Bybee Wetlands."