On any given Thursday afternoon, the middle school hallways at Cascades Academy are eerily silent. Where are all the students? As it turns out, they are out and about in the community, learning through a variety of community service projects.
One group of students can be found working on critical habitat restoration projects with the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council. The Watershed Council works to restore the critical physical and biological conditions required to support clean water, healthy aquatic ecosystems, and strong fish and wildlife populations.
“Cascades Academy students have been working with us to learn about the health of the Deschutes River,” said Kolleen Miller, education director for the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council. “We have helped them learn about the importance of wetland habitat for the Oregon spotted frog, and they have restored riparian plants along the wetland and the Deschutes. It has been wonderful to see their excitement for taking care of our watershed!”
Another group is busy sorting seeds and checking food expiration dates for NeighborImpact, an organization that helps meet the needs of more than 55,000 neighbors each year in Central Oregon. NeighborImpact distributed over 3 million pounds of food last year alone!
Think Wild is a local organization and wildlife hospital that seeks to reduce the incidents of human/wildlife conflict through education. When conflicts do occur, Think Wild provides veterinary care at its Erickson Road hospital, designed to minimize treatment and recovery stress. The group of students working with Think Wild is cleaning up the grounds at the facility to give it more curb appeal. They are also planning to carve pumpkins and place treats inside for the baby raccoons to find.
Finally, some students have hit the trails with Central Oregon Trail Alliance (COTA) to help improve our local trail systems. COTA has been working for years on improving local trails through restoration and rebuilding. “The students are putting the finishing touches on a newly built mountain bike oriented trail under construction at the Cascade View Trailhead. Their work ensures a great riding experience for riders of all skill levels,” said Bruce Schroeder, chair of COTA. “They are quick learners, are energetic, and are extremely fun to work with!”
“An important part of our school mission is inspiring an ethic of social responsibility in our students,” said Julie Amberg, head of school. “We believe students can learn so much through hands-on experiential learning in the community, and we are grateful to all of our community partners for making these opportunities available.”
The students’ enthusiasm for this work is easy to see. “I think that planting these plants is so fun but pulling weeds last week was even MORE fun,” said a sixth-grade student about his work with the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council. “We are helping repair a trail network in Redmond,” said an eighth-grader about her work with COTA. “We are really looking forward to seeing the final product, and of course riding on those trails!”
ABOUT CASCADES ACADEMY
Cascades Academy is a pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade independent school located in Bend, Oregon that focuses on challenging academics through experiential learning. For questions or press inquiries, please contact Barb Cartmell, Director of Admission at 541.382.0699, extension 132.