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On Sept. 23, our Roots & Shoots group ran our yearly environmental clean-up of the Tom McCall Forest. This one forested acre is part of the campus of Tom McCall Upper Elementary School. Over the years we have transformed this area into an outdoor classroom, through these community clean-ups. The activities included removal of invasive species (blackberry, Ivy, holly); weeding; mulching trees and shrubs; installation & maintenance of squirrel and bird feeders; installation of a bat house; planting of native trees, shrubs, and bulbs; collection of seeds and maintenance of wildflower/butterfly garden; and general removal of trash. In spite of the constant rain, we accomplished a lot, preparing the Forest for the coming Winter. About 15 trees where planted during the event.
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Every year our Roots&Shoots groups learns to fold Origami Peace Cranes, as well as the story of "Sadako and the Thousand Cranes" and how it connects to the international child's peace project. We also have explored this story through the song by Fred Small called "Cranes Over Hiroshima". We share what we have learned with other groups and the public every chance we get throughout the year. Last year we sent over 2,000 cranes to Hiroshima, Japan. This year we hope to send a similar about.
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The Tom McCall Forest has been transformed into an Outdoor classroom over the year through our efforts. Because this area has been "mowed" and cleaned of natural debris, the soil is very thin and poor, as well as compacted. This year we are experimenting by trying to build up this soil with leaf mulch brought in from the city's annual leaf sweeping. Several large piles were dropped off from the city and we spread these over a large area over several meetings. We are hoping that as the leaves decay it will build up the soil and help retain water (this forest gets quite dry in the summer months). We plan on getting more mulch this spring from the City of Forest Grove.
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Our group made food for winter creatures that visit our yards! We purchased peanut butter, bagels, vegetable shortening, & bird/animal seed at a dollar store. The kids slathered halved bagels with the peanut butter, then dipped them into the seeds. Next they tied yarn onto the bagels, so they could hang them in their trees. After the adults heated the shortening, the kids poured more seed into it,and stirred until it was mixed. We then poured them into individual-sized yogurt cups that people had been saving. they took them home to freeze. once solid, we popped them out of their cups, and hung them in mesh produce bags we'd been saving.
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We collected non-perishable food from the neighborhood and donated it to a local family shelter.
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We collected mittens, hats and scarves and decorated a tree. These items were taken to Northwest Children's Outreach and given to children in need.
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Made pine cone bird feeders and cereal garland for the birds and squirrels. Hung these outdoors on trees on our property and the children took one home for the birds and squirrels in their yards.
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We collected recycled containers such as coffee cans, egg cartons, and plastic dairy tubs. We decoupaged these to cover the surface and decorated them with tissue paper, glitter and sequins to make gift containers that could be used for cookies, candy or other holiday gifts.
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On both Monday and Tuesday, I went hiking in Washington Valley Park in Bridgewater, NJ. This park is beautiful!!!!!!!!! A mountainous area where nature is at its peak in biodiversity. Who knew that such a place existed, especially here in Somerset County! It was an incredible hike. On Monday, I went alone. I know the park like the back of my hand, if not better! It was mind-blowing! I took pictures and will be posting them today. Anyway, yesterday I returned with my step-sister, aunt and cousin to the park. They enjoyed it, though they were extremely tired! This showed them that nature is mighty and majestic, and is highly significant in the end result of the survival of biodiversity. I led them all around, assuring them I knew where I was at all times. I'm thinking to be a tour guide there, or at least I wish I could be!
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The School at Sweetser's Roots & Shoots group created artwork as Messages of Peace. We mailed the artwork to the New England Roots & Shoots office, as part of the Peace Through the Arts campaign. The Messages of Peace will be sent via the Well Wishes and Blessings Project to bring hope to youth in Baghdad, Iraq.

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