$10,000 grant allows the school's Green Team to install native plants

It’s been tough year in Wilsonville for bees. After as many as 50,000 bumblebees were killed after a pesticide was improperly applied to trees in the parking lot of Wilsonville’s Target store, the plight of pollinators in the area received increased attention.

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: KATE HOOTS - Faculty members of the Boeckman Creek Green Team worked to secure a $10,000 grant and install a garden filled with native plants on the school grounds. A few members of the team are pictured here outside the garden.That’s not why the Green Team at Boeckman Creek Primary School recently installed a native garden behind the school. But it is a happy coincidence. The garden contains native plantings that should attract beneficial native insects of all kinds, including ladybugs and other insects that help keep pests, such as aphids and other troublesome insects, under control.

“I went to a workshop on wetlands with Erik Carr,” Boeckman second-grade teacher Leslie Logan said. Carr, a planner with Clackamas County Soil and Water Conservation District, was making a presentation that included information about native gardens.

“All of the sudden I heard ‘Wood Middle School’ and ‘Trillium,’ and (about) work he’d done with them,” Logan said. She approached Carr to ask, “Is there any chance you could work with us?”

Carr responded that he had been hoping to begin working with a Wilsonville primary school. He visited the school, meeting with second-grade teachers and the Green Team. Boeckman administrators, including Principal Lindy Sproul, were supportive, and a couple parents from the school’s Parent Teacher Association joined too.

A walk around the property revealed a good spot to site a native garden. Two portables recently had been removed, leaving footprints of bare earth near the school’s playground.

“It was pretty noticeable,” Logan said. “The land wasn’t functional.”

Carr showed the planning team plans for a native garden and helped them submit a $10,000 grant application through the Soil and Water Conservation District. Funding came from a voter-approved tax levy passed in 2006. After adjusting the garden plans to bring the budget within that dollar limit, the grant was approved and the garden began to take shape Oct. 19. Portland-based landscape contractor Blossom Earthworks worked with the Green Team on the project.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Students worked with faculty and staff to plant and care for the garden.Working closely with Carr and the school district’s sustainability coordinator, Nell Achtmeyer, almost the entire school community helped plant the garden. Working in teams of “buddy classes,” where older students are paired with younger counterparts, students swiftly completed the planting. Since then, teachers already are noticing students beginning to appreciate and take ownership of the garden.

“This is where kids who want a quiet recess can go,” Logan reported hearing teachers say. A group of fourth-grade boys reportedly asked their teacher, Sunny Selders, how they could keep their playground balls from damaging the fragile plants.

Mairin Wilson, a kindergarten teacher at Boeckman, said that even the youngest children at the school were responding positively to the garden.

“We noticed there was a real draw to the area,” she said. “We do a tree study every year and we usually go out front. This year, we were drawn to the garden. It’s open and inviting. When the kids go out there they’re a lot quieter and calmer.”

A few elements remain to be completed. The school district’s operations department has pledged to bring water closer to the garden site, relieving teachers and parents of the need to stretch a hose or haul watering cans and buckets. The garden will receive a layer of mulch on Halloween. After that, the safety tape will be removed and the garden will be officially open.

Logan credits many for helping the garden go from design to reality. The school’s Green Team, the administration and custodian Arturo Valdovinos are at the top of her list.

“Everyone at the district was very supportive of this effort,” she said.

For more information about native gardening, visit the Clackamas County Soil and Water Conservation District website at or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to schedule a free landscape consultation.

Kate Hoots can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 112. Follow her on Twitter, @CommuniKater.

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