By Jim Grano
On Thursday October 15th, ten students from Siuslaw Elementary and Middle School in Florence attended the Oregon Youth Summit in Portland. The students are veterans of the Oregon Dunes Stewardship Project that has been carried on by all Siuslaw 4th grade classes since 2011, and they were looking forward to sharing details of their recent invasive species removal efforts with others.
The Oregon Youth Summit featured a mix of 30 elementary, middle, and high schools from around the state. Dr. Jane Goodall gave the keynote address to 400+ students, teachers and parents in which she talked about her life, career, and shared a hopeful message for a peaceful future.
The goal of the Summit was to have an opportunity for all students to share what they’ve done, and to inspire each other to even greater work in the future. Each school displayed its environmental research and/or stewardship project on a 3’ X 6’ table.
The school teams briefly presented their projects to Dr. Jane Goodall. Siuslaw’s spokesperson was Brady Bauer. The team had previewed the project for their local school board on the evening before the Summit. Read the presentation. Brady concluded the presentation with the following poem. Dr. Goodall commented that she knew the poem, and that it is a favorite:
The event also featured mini-workshops and a scavenger hunt involving all of the displays. “I particularly enjoyed creating balls of dirt, clay, compost and assorted wildflower seeds,” said Owen Harklerode, after attending one of the mini-sessions. “It involved getting my hands dirty.”
In preparation for the Summit, Siuslaw’s team met over 5 evenings and did much of the work at home. The students created a display on a board constructed from Scotch Broom sticks, and which featured a hand made broom, awards the project had received from Oregon Invasive Species Council and US Forest Service, and take-away informational brochures about invasive Scotch Broom.
Teacher Dennis King and volunteer Jim Grano guided the students. “After a full day of work, Dennis and I should be exhausted after this extra planning and time … instead we are energized and inspired by the enthusiasm and creativity of these students and their parents!” Grano said.
Student Ava Glowacki summed up the experience as follows: “When I consider and reflect upon my experiences while participating in the Oregon Youth Summit, there are 3 things that stand out. First, meeting a highly inspirational person such as Dr. Goodall. Second, listening to Dr. Goodall’s speech about how she started out and how it became her passion. And finally, being able to see all of the other schools’ projects that showed what they did to make a difference in our environment.”
This opportunity was sponsored by the Diack Foundation, which also provided a $250 assist to each school for transportation and substitute teachers, and from the Jane Goodall Environmental Middle School (JGEMS).
Jim Grano was a teacher in Mapleton and Siuslaw School Districts for 33 years before he retired in 2007. Today, he is a busy volunteer in the Siuslaw, Reedport and Mapleton school districts, coordinating more than 40 grant-funded project-based field experiences for students. He is also an active liaison for the Oregon Coast STEM Hub.