Kids and Creeks

Privet Removal

The purpose of the Kids and Creeks project is to improve science
education, as well as the local environment, by focusing on primary
issues in our community: locally threatened and endangered species of
Chinook Salmon and Steelhead trout living in streams that flow through
our urban and agricultural community and the overall health of the
watershed that we live in.

The program is facilitated by California State University Students and
Fairview High School students. The program has had many supporting
partners including:

  • Schools or youth organizations: Chico Unified School District,
    Chico Country Day School, Community Action Volunteers in Education
    (CAVE,) California State University, Chico, Fairview High School
  • Local or tribal governments: City of Chico, Mechoopda Tribe
  • Local businesses or corporations: Floral Native Nursery
  • Conservation organizations or local citizen groups: Chico Area
    Flyfishers Association, Watershed Education Project, Sacramento River
    Watershed Project, Friends of Bidwell Park, and Streaminders
  • State and federal resource management agencies: Feather River
    Hatchery, California Department of Fish and Game, U.S. Environmental
    Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department
    of Water Resources

Kids and Creeks has four science components.

  • Eggs to Fry in the Classroom program facilitates classrooms in the
    Chico Unified School District to raise anadromous fish, salmon or
    steelhead, which become the connection between the classroom to the
    creek environment. They learn how fish are dependent upon a healthy
    ecosystem and how the creeks in their local community need to be cared
    for and protected to continually provide suitable fish habitat. Eggs are
    donated by the Feather River Hatchery and the aquariums are donated
    and maintained by the Chico Area Flyfisher Association.
  • Restoration, Ecology and Action program engages classrooms in the
    Chico Unified School District in service-learning components that focus
    on anadromous fish, riparian habitat restoration, and creek ecology. Our
    objective is to balance the species focus with field trips about restoration
    of riparian habitat and regional ecology, where students use problem-
    solving skills to do real-life restoration. This is a service learning
    component where students do restoration in Bidwell Park as part of the
    the Park Dept. vegetation management program. Restoration methods
    start with manually removing or girdling invasive plant species such as
    Himalayan blackberry, ailanthus, privet, vinca, English ivy, pyracantha,
    and star thistle. Once exotics have been removed from an area, students
    plant native trees, shrubs, and grasses to create new habitat.
  • Kids Get Down To Earth is conducted in the winter months. This
    component focuses on the physical aspects of our watershed. The
    program comes to individual schools with activities. Four stations are set
    up that students participate in. Students are divided into small,
    manageable groups, typically not more than 10 students per station.
    Areas of importance are the dynamics of erosion, meandering,
    floodplains, bedload, water quality and geology. An erosion table and a
    pollution model are used to study the dynamics of a watershed. These
    models enables more children with a variety of learning styles to
    comprehend the many interrelationships of a watershed within earth, life,
    and physical science curriculums. Other activities include creating a
    nature journal/workbook, poetry, water quality experiments, and rock
    classification. Typically, the rock cycle and the water cycle are linked
    and studied. The focus is always on the unique environment that Chico
    Area school children have in their own backyard.
  • Creek Ecology Days: In the Spring, students from multiple
    classrooms come together to learn about creek ecology. Groups of
    students rotate through environmental education stations designed by
    college students, the Program Coordinator, teachers, and community
    members. Creek Ecology Days are planned to reinforce standards and
    units that meet the objectives of teachers, and link with what is being
    taught in the classroom. Examples of stations include a wildlife station
    with wildlife loaned by DFG or the Chico Creek Nature Center. A Native
    American station, designed by a Mechoopda tribe member, uses Indian
    artifacts as visual aids and hands-on activities to demonstrate how the
    Mechoopda Indians once lived in harmony with nature along Big Chico
    Creek and explore how this was possible. A knowledgeable staff member
    leads a discovery hike where the students are encouraged to discuss what
    they have learned by participating in the program throughout the year.
    Students enthusiastically participate in an aquatic invertebrate station
    where they investigate, classify, and are taught lifecycles of aquatic
    invertebrates that are integral to the health of the riparian community.
    This day of activities opens doors to life-long learning and curiosity.

The program is funded through grants, and all components have not been
funded on a continuous basis. Program coordinator is seeking local
funding for project so this valuable science learning experience is not
dependent year to year on grant sources. The momentum of this program
is strong, and with continued funding, it will evolve and be able to
include more Chico Unified Classrooms. There is a waiting list for
teachers who would like their classrooms involved. Science is important
at the primary grade level to create an interest that will encourage
children to continue in science education.