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From interactive nature exploration to feeding a snake, community members paid tribute to a program unlike any other. 

On Saturday, April 30, the West Linn-Wilsonville School District celebrated the 20th anniversary of the CREST program.

CREST, otherwise known as the Center for Research in Environmental Sciences and Technologies, has been an education center in the district since 2002 and provides outreach and on-site programs. The nature program has provided students in the district a place to take the learning they've gained in the classroom and turn it into real-world knowledge, according to Amy Shauer, the Science Instructional Coordinator at CREST.

"(The anniversary) deserved celebrating, but also after everything we've all been through together for the past couple of years we needed to celebrate something," Shauer said to Pamplin Media Group in an earlier interview. PMG PHOTO: MIA RYDER-MARKS - Students from Bolton Primary had a plant sale

During the rainy afternoon, the 4-acre lot at Boones Ferry Primary School was packed with community members and district staff.

West Linn-Wilsonville School Board Chair Chelsea King shared stories about how CREST has impacted her — from staff teaching one of her son's classes about where food comes from to when she was volunteering at Lowrie and watched as CREST staff taught students how to make kale chips. School district Superintendent Kathy Ludwig led a talk about the program and how much it has accomplished over the two decades, as well as what the future holds.

After enjoying musical performances by the Boeckman Creek Choir and students from both high schools, community members could participate in various activities that broadened their understanding of CREST and sustainability.

Different schools from around the district set up tables and showcased some of the sustainable actions they've orchestrated like setting up compost bins, organizing walk-to-school days and planting vegetable gardens.

At a booth set up by Eco-School Network, an organization made up of teachers and school staff who strive to introduce more sustainable measures on school campuses, kids made paper tracings of their hands and wrote an action they'd like to do to make the world a more environmentally friendly place. Some answers written by students included going vegetarian, composting and riding their scooter to school more. PMG PHOTO: MIA RYDER-MARKS - From interactive nature exploration to feeding a snake, community members paid tribute to a program unlike any other.

Other activities resulted in a bit of bravery for students.

"It is so slimy but so cool," one student said to his mother after touching the cantaloupe-colored snake named Cornelius, wrapped around CREST volunteer Nolan Thomas' arm.

"We wanted to show off the animals and give kids the ability to touch and interact with animals they probably would otherwise, like a snake, because they might be afraid to due to misconceptions," Thomas said. "These are all animals that were rescued by CREST and now they live here on the grounds."

Students could also feed leaves to two tortoises that were lazily roaming a patch of grass. PMG PHOTO: MIA RYDER-MARKS - From interactive nature exploration to petting a snake, community members paid tribute to a program unlike any other.

And in celebration of the years to come for the program, students could also create new roots for the future of the grounds. Using various tools, students detailed copper-metal leaves that will be hung up on a fake tree on the grounds.

"When everyone visits CREST, they will get to see their own work — which is very true for what CREST is all about. It's very reliant on volunteer work and help from local schools and businesses. Through that work, it all comes together just like the branches of the copper tree," said Sarah Laden, a junior at Wilsonville High School who volunteers with CREST.

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