Redlands & Rialto Students Get Their Hands Dirty
Photo Above: Students from Rialto High School dump collected food waste at Huerta Del Valle Community Garden. HDV is creating compost to apply to the garden in order to return nutrients to the soil.
Redlands, CA – This year, high school students from Rialto and Citrus Valley High Schools participated in the Inland Empire Resource Conservation District’s SLEWS program. The Student and Landowner Education and Watershed Stewardship Program (SLEWS) is a program developed by the Center for Land-Based Learning to provide habitat restoration activities for landowners and promote a stewardship ethic in students. The students visit the site at least twice throughout the year to perform field work, learn about conservation topics, and work alongside mentors, who are experts in the field of conservation, to explore future school and job opportunities in the fields of agriculture and resource conservation.
Students from Rialto High School visited Huerta Del Valle Community Garden (HDV) in Ontario, CA in October and February. Maria Alonso and Arthur Levine manage the garden with the vision of providing healthy produce and a gathering space for their community. To further the conservation work already being accomplished on the site, the students built a rain capture system to collect rainwater from the roof of HDV’s greenhouse to recycle throughout the garden. Students also helped compost a truckload of food waste that HDV collected from sites throughout the community including schools and local businesses. In February, Rialto High School students returned to plant fruit trees and perform an insect inventory to monitor the health of the garden.
In November, students from Citrus Valley High School visited Highland Springs Resort, an organic lavender farm located in Cherry Valley, CA. Tina Kummerle, Farm Manager, explained to the students that the resort operates its farms under a no-kill policy, meaning they cannot use pesticides or traps to deter pests. To help control pests on the property, the students built and installed several owl boxes and raptor perches to attract raptors to the area to hunt ground squirrels and other rodents. The students also planted a native plant hedgerow on the property to attract pollinators, provide native habitat, and serve as a windbreak. In January, the students returned to perform a native seeding of an area that was burned in the 2016 Bogart Fire. Prior to the fire, the site consisted primarily of ripgut brome (Bromus diandrus, an invasive grass species. Ripgut brome, and other invasive grasses, provide poor habitat for wildlife and increase wildfire frequency – oftentimes converting shrublands into non-native grasslands. Ripgut brome is known to have low soil viability and because of the fire, germination was expected to be low compared to previous years. This offered a great opportunity to perform a native plant seeding to recruit more native plants to the site. Students hand-seeded one acre while learning about native plants and fire ecology.
The SLEWS program provides students with valuable, hands-on resource conservation experience while providing a great benefit to landowners. The program is in its second year at the IERCD, a special district tasked with preserving and managing the natural resources within San Bernardino County, and has received great recognition from teachers, mentors, and landowners involved in the program.