I Am Clark’s Creek – Puyallup School District
ometimes it takes the imagination and inspiration of youth to push a project towards success. When the Puyallup River Watershed Council in Washington State became concerned about Clark’s Creek, it was the student project I am Clark’s Creek that sparked the community activism necessary to improve local stewardship and conservation. In an effort to encourage local stewardship and reduce contamination, the Puyallup River Watershed Council set out on a public awareness campaign. Instead of the typical public service announcements, a unique and artistic approach was taken, working with three local elementary schools to generate awareness of the creek in the community. The Puyallup River Watershed Council, NPS RTCA, and artists partnered with resource experts and the Puyallup School District science and art teachers to organize a field trip to Clark’s Creek to learn about the resources and ecology of the creek and surrounding watershed. The students then participated in various art projects to generate pictures, stories, and poems that reflected what they felt were the most important lessons learned on the field trip.
The student projects were assembled into a booklet titled I am Clark’s Creek and the Washington State Department of Ecology provided grant funds to print the booklets. Check out this creative, artistic booklet (135MB). A copy of the booklet was provided to every household served by the schools that participated in the project.” The leaders of the Puyallup River Watershed Council attribute the I am Clark’s Creek booklet to helping spur some key landowners into action. These landowners formed the Friends of Clark’s Creek and started kayaking up and down the creek, talking to their neighbors, building relationships, and working on projects. Through their efforts a local business changed its practices to reduce pollution into the creek, county officials got a mobile home court to stop illegal sewer discharges, and an upstream fish hatchery modified their practices to improve the water quality of their discharge. In addition, Washington State Department of Ecology has funded additional watershed work and the City of Puyallup is playing a significant role in the work of the friends group. Sometimes the work of youth can spark significant change in a community and, likewise, it can spark change in youth. Many of the participants walked away understanding more about the natural world and artistic expression, and about the value of getting youth involved. The project was able to really celebrate and acknowledge the contributions of the students. This also helps to have a lasting impact on the youth and with this project, they were able to witness how their involvement really did change Clark’s Creek.