Gypsum Creek Middle School students help restore Gore Creek in Vail while learning about its ecosystem
VAIL — As plants and animals prepare for fall around the Vail Valley, the students of Gypsum Creek Middle School are busy learning about and helping Gore Creek become a healthier ecosystem.
Teacher Katie Lunde’s students were in East Vail on Tuesday, Sept. 25, learning about the ecosystem in and around Gore Creek, while helping to restore the waterway.
Lunde has brought her seventh-grade science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students to Vail the past several years to work with the town and Walking Mountains Science Center to help restore Gore Creek, which has been deemed an impaired waterway in Colorado.
Along with learning about macroinvertebrates and water chemistry, the third station the students participate in is a service planting station. Last year, the students harvested lodgepole pine seeds, which are now close to 200 saplings and will be planted in the fall of next year.
This year, they were cutting live willows and replanting the trunks so they would grow along the banks of the creek in Bighorn Park in East Vail. By removing the leaves and branches from a live willow, they can plant the trunk and it will regrow.
Pete Wadden, watershed education coordinator with the town of Vail, said it’s great to work with local students to help restore the creek to a healthier riparian habitat.
“The idea is they are getting involved in the process of revegetating … and hopefully getting an idea of how the quality of the water and the health of the critters that live in the water is dependent upon the vegetation along the water,” Wadden said.
The plants help create a buffer and act as a filter for runoff, which a lot of times is more polluted in populated areas such as East Vail.
“In every case, it’s about putting more plants on the stream bank,” Wadden said.
The value of hands-on learning is high when it comes to projects like this, he said, and Lunde has noticed the same thing.
She said after discovering the “Teaching Environmental Sustainability: Model My Watershed” teachers’ guide from the Concord Consortium at the Vail Public Library, she’s watched her students’ learning grow along with the plants they are tending.
“It has shown amazing growth in their education around watersheds,” Lunde said. “The kids are so engaged, and they learn so much about the community around them.”
By learning that what happens in Vail affects them in Gypsum and beyond, students better understand the concept of why things happen and that the world of ecology is much bigger than their own backyards.
“To tie into the big picture of restore the Gore, it’s important for kids to see how our streams are impacted,” said Lara Carlson, senior programs director for Walking Mountains. “It’s opening their eyes to new things.”