Visiting wetlands in the spring can be quite the experience. Rain, deep sticky mud, possible salamander and frog siting’s, tracks from beavers. What sounds like a wilderness experience, is actually less than a mile away from many Washington county schools. For the past three years, Megan Garvey TWC Urban Land Steward, has been introducing 4th and 5th graders to their backyard wetlands.
Megan visits 14 different classrooms in April and May, she brings a beaver costume (teeth, coat, webbed feet, everything) and leads the students in activities to understand what beavers are doing, how they are adapted to build their dams, store water, and support other important animals in the creek system. The students laugh at their friends who walk around with the silly beaver costume, but they also see first-hand how important this keystone species is for their backyard water systems.
Once the beaver fashion show is over, the class ventures out to the wetlands that are just a short walk away. Students proudly tell each other that ‘rain doesn’t bother them because they are Oregonians’. Boots get stuck in the mud, there are whispered fears of snakes and bugs, everyone gets wet but spirits are high. Evidence of beavers is everywhere, beaver chews and flooded walkways. The flooded walkways are a great discussion topic and perfect teachable moment, the beavers are making the wetland more complex, creating new homes for other animals and replenishing our groundwater.
After three years 1,260 kids are beaver believers! Many of the students reflect on their worksheets how they want to walk to the wetlands with their parents, especially in the evening to see the beaver in action. This next generation of “Oregonians”, who like to walk in the rain, get muddy feet are prepared to share their urban communities with beavers.