On Thursday, March 16, the students from Woodland High School returned for their third and final SLEWS Day of the year, accompanied again by their teacher and a chaperone. The main goal for the day was to complete the drip irrigation system that was begun during their initial visit in October. Once again Matt Lechmaier from the Center for Land-Based Learning lead the day, while Matthew Danielczyk from Audubon and Jacob Byers from US Fish and Wildlife Service returned to mentor and support. UC Davis Grad Students Fanny Ye, Katy Dynarski, Laura McGowan, and Jared Borba returned to mentor and lead the teams.

The day started as usual with a huddle and team assignments. After a quick team building exercise, it was time to get to work. First up was the irrigation system project. During their first visit in October, the students laid out three rows of hose. Now, using piercing tools to create holes, they were tasked with installing emitters into the hoses near each of the seedlings that they planted in January. They worked fast and efficiently, getting distracted only by the tiny frogs that they would occasionally stumble across in small burrows along the way.

Once all of the emitters were installed, the next project was to build birdhouses.  The four structures will host cavity-nesting species that will fit into the 1.25 inch diameter entrance,  including tree swallows, western bluebirds, ash-throated flycatchers, and house wrens. The teams were given all of the parts needed to build the structures; however, they were given minimal instructions. There was a completed birdhouse on hand for reference, but otherwise it was up to the teams to work together to figure out how all the pieces fit together. Once completed, the four structures were attached to posts and hammered into the ground throughout the site.

After a lunch break, the students participated in a couple of learning activities. First, mentor and UC Davis grad student Katy Dynarski gave a presentation on different soils. Next, all of the mentors met with each team in five-minute intervals to share information on their respective education and career paths, and to answer any questions to help guide the students on their own paths. To end the day, the students regrouped to share their favorite part of their SLEWS experience.

River Garden Farms is proud to have participated with the SLEWS Program and invited them to contribute to our restoration project. We have been impressed with and grateful for the enthusiasm and dedication from all involved that made our SLEWS Days a success – from the students to the mentors to the representatives of the Center for Land-Based Learning, Audobon, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. We look forward to future opportunities to invite SLEWS back and to continue to be a part of the education of local students who are interested in pursuing careers in agriculture!