Biology, Art, and 1000 Seedlings

The 9th -12th grade biology and art students headed east of the Cascades to participate in an experimental restoration of Garry oak seedlings. They went for hikes, played Bananagrams, Apples to Apples, Texas Hold Em, and role playing games in addition to a treat of hot tubbing after dinner! The next day they were off to work in the rain at the nearby Swauk Valley Ranch.

Hillside science teacher Laura Colasurdo oversaw the planting of about 1000 Garry oak seedlings in an abandoned agricultural field at the Swauk Valley Ranch as part of her Master’s degree research at the University of Washington in the spring of 2008. Since the 2008 planting, Laura and volunteers from The Nature Conservancy have been measuring the seedlings each fall to determine the efficacy of different post-planting treatments, including plastic mulch squares, blue plastic tree shelters, and first year irrigation. This year the Hillside students were able to join in the effort, noting the survival and height of each seedling.

The students worked quickly and finished measuring all of the seedlings before lunch time. The students worked very hard in the cold and wet and are to be commended for their efforts! They now have a sense of what field biologists endure in a worst case scenario.

After a lovely warm lunch with hot tea and hot chocolate provided by the ranch, both the biology and art students got out sketchboards and had a chance to record their interpretations of a landscape in a completely different ecosystem from that we find in the Bellevue area.

Biology students will help analyze the data collected during the second trimester, and in the long run the data that the students collected this year will be part of a scientific paper that will be submitted for publication within the next few years detailing the results from the first 5 years of this study.