Students from Pacheco High School worked Thursday on a restoration project at Bowles Farming Co. near Los Banos as part of a program that promotes healthy relationships among nature, agriculture and society.
Thursday’s activities were the first of three days work during this year’s SLEWS Program – Student and Landowner Education and Watershed Stewardship Program. The program connects students and farmers with a main goal: restoring wildlands. Much of that work involves clearing out exotic or invasive plant and animal species to make room for natural species.
“This program gets students out to understand how wildlands work with humans and what they’re trying to do,” said Cindy Lashbrook, the SLEWS coordinator in Merced County. “With the restoration projects, they [students] can learn about natural science, what plant species we’re losing and what we can do to help bring them back.”
With the restoration projects, they can learn about natural science, what plant species we’re losing and what we can do to help bring them back
Cindy Lashbrook, SLEW Project coordinator in Merced County
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Last year was the first year the Center for Land Based Learning program was executed in Merced County, and students this year are building upon the previous year’s work. On Thursday, students worked to remove quail bushes to make room for other native plants.
Aimee Strohmenger’s animal science class spent the day learning about vegetation management and birds at the restoration site, on Bowles Farms near the San Joaquin River. In her class, she discusses natural habitats disturbed by agriculture and the role of natural resources in agriculture.
Reyn Akiona, a private lands biologist, taught students about the different kinds of vegetation used to restore the wildlands site: native grasses to cover the ground, medium-sized shrubs and trees to create a canopy.
“The main goal when we’re done is to have a multi-story, dense-structure riparian habitat ... and, in the long run, basically provide wildlife habitat,” Akiona said.
Junior Joel Cordova said he enjoyed getting out of the classroom and participating in a hands-on learning experience. “We learned different things about wildlife plant species and why you should and shouldn’t plant certain species of plants,” he said. “It’s a good learning experience for us. You can be in an ag science class, but you don’t really know what you’re learning about until you come out here and see it for yourself.”
Brianna Calix: 209-385-2477