Weeds Warriors and Chugach Volunteers
400 seventh graders launch 2010 volunteer programs
The bird cherry trees were no match for the Weeds Warriors of Mears Middle School. A small phalanx of seventh graders cut them down, ripped out their roots, and helped remove this invasive species from a swath of Anchorage’s Valley of the Moon Park.
The effort was one of a series of service learning projects on public lands surrounding Anchorage—and part of Alaska Geographic’s efforts to provide increased volunteer opportunities for Alaskans to connect with their public lands.
Seventh Graders Unite!
Throughout early May, 400 seventh graders took part in volunteer projects near Anchorage, dividing up into teams of 30 to 120 students. Some attacked the bird cherry, taking part in the "Weeds Warriors" program sponsored by the the Municipality of Anchorage. Others headed down to Girdwood, where they slung gravel and hardened and improved trails on the Chugach National Forest. And still others took to Chugach State Park, installing new interpretive signs near McHugh Creek in Chugach State Park.
In all, seven different student groups worked on projects at different times, contributing more than 680 volunteer hours for the benefit of Alaska’s public lands. “It’s great,” enthuses Amanda Smith, Alaska Geographic’s education and development associate. “It gets youth outside and active on their public lands, and introduces them to the importance of stewardship for the outdoors.”
The projects first came about through the efforts of Cindy Holderith, gifted coordinator at Mears Middle School, who approached Alaska Geographic after attending several Alaska Geographic field courses. The projects achieved the “social and emotional learning” standard set forth by the Anchorage School District and were achieved through the support of Mears Middle School Principal Michael Perkins, and partnerships with Chugach State Park, the Chugach National Forest, the Municipality of Anchorage, and Alaska Geographic.
But this is just the beginning, notes Smith. “We hope these volunteer efforts continue this fall and into the spring, and possibly expand to other middle schools.”
Opportunities for all Alaskans
It’s not just Anchorage youth that are taking advantage of volunteer opportunities—Alaskans of all ages are participating in a range of expanding volunteer programs. In one of the first new programs, volunteers will explore the landscape and watershed of the Copper River through a hands-on, guided voluntourism program.
During the four-day project in late July, participants will work to enhance aquatic habitats in the Saddlebag Creek area near Cordova. Working alongside Forest Service biologists, volunteers will restore 6.1 acres of salmon, dolly vardon, and coho smolt habitat to
support the highly popular Alaganik Slough sport fishery and Copper River commercial fishery.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity,” Smith notes. “Volunteers get to visit less traveled areas of the forest with forest service fisheries biologist. They get to learn the ins and outs of creek restoration and salmon life cycle biology, and make a difference while doing so. It’s a great way to see a really cool area while giving back.”
The program is one of the first in an expanding range of future volunteer opportunities with Alaska Geographic and its public lands partners. Stay tuned for more in the months ahead!
For more information about Alaska Geographic’s volunteer programs, contact Amanda Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org