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After a two-year wait, shovels finally hit dirt as kids add native plants, complete bioswale.

As seventh grader Julie Murray lowers a lady fern plant into the soil, she is also planting roots for a more environmentally friendly school district.

On Tuesday, May 24, a project two years in the making finally came to fruition. Seventh grade students from Wood Middle School collaborated with the West Linn-Wilsonville School District, the city of Wilsonville and local business Habitat Landscape Designs to complete a bioswale at Boones Ferry Primary School.

"It feels different than it did in fifth grade, and it's cool coming back and seeing how everything has changed with the plants and area," Julie said.

The project started in 2019 and was a response to the school district needing improvements for its stormwater facilities.

The 100-plus primary school students then participated in an interactive charrette where they created maps of the future bioswale and handpicked native plants. The students' next step was to help the local entities plant at the school but, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the project was postponed.

At last, on Tuesday, the middle schoolers took the short trek across the parking lot to their former school where they spent the morning planting the native species that they selected two years earlier.

"It feels fantastic (to start the project). The collaboration between everyone has just so much perseverance and fortitude. It is such a great team effort," said Leslie Campbell, founder of Habitat Landscape Design.

Foster Drew said he doesn't remember planning for the event two years ago but really enjoys helping out the school and learning about the ecosystem.

"I think it's important for schools to teach us about nature," he said.

The bioswale, located in the school courtyard, will act as a stormwater sewer and also is a wildlife garden, Campbell said.

"I think it's important to have environments like this around us and connect (students) to nature and our ecosystems," said Ruby Jacklich.

The area will feed clean water into the natural landscapes around the school and beyond.

"Students who will come to the school for decades will be able to enjoy the area for not only its aesthetic beauty, but for what it provides our native wildlife," said Kerry Rappold, the natural resources program manager for the city of Wilsonville. "This project is very much a reflection of persistence and the human spirit. We've had the pandemic and we still aren't great, but we show perseverance in trying to make this (bioswale) happen. It's a fulfillment that we're getting there."

While finishing up planting, students said they learned more about how to help their environment.

"Spaces like this taught me how I can help the world, and I think they are really important to keep our cities and schools clean," Murray said.

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