Thursday, December 8, 2011

EcoThink is evolving again!

If your child is interested in environmental topics consider joining us at the EcoThink Late Start Lounge starting Jan. 2012! It will be an hour long session/hike before school on late start days. Please contact for more information.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Session 6 - Back to Stephen's Creek

We hiked down to Stephen's Creek and the students were able to test their field science skills by conducting a transect of the park with PVC quadrants. They used a symbol key to document what types of plants were in their squares and even came up with a few new codes to describe different plants and objects. It was interested to see how much has changed since our last visit five weeks ago. We also reviewed 'KWL' - what I KNOW, what I WANT to know, and what I LEARNED before headed back to school. Great job guys!

Here are the class photos for weeks 3 to 6 including creating the mason bee nests, native plant observations, forestry reward relay, erosion/raindrop game, and the final hike.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Session 5 - Alien Plants in Portland

Today the students learned about ‘alien’ plants in Portland and how these plants can lead to monocultures in our woods and erosion problems. The four invasive plants we focused on were Himalayan Blackberry, English Ivy, Herb Robert/‘Stinky Bob’, and Garlic Mustard. The students had some great questions about how to get rid of these plants and were excited to hear that there are ‘ivy pull parties’ at Tryon Creek (the next Stewardship Saturday Ivy Pull is November 12th from 9am-12pm).

The students also played the erosion game ‘Just Passing Through’ where each team got to be raindrops, plants, or stones on the slope near the school. The raindrops had to work hard to race down stream with out getting tagged by a plant. They even had a chance to play the pollution game (the raindrops tried to pick up chips that represented chemical or natural stream pollutants and ‘deliver’ them to the river with out being tagged by a plant) before we were hit with real raindrops!

This last Saturday we had a wonderful tour and hike at Hopkins Demonstration Forest. The students were able to help measure trees, count pine needles on different types of conifers, and hand drill a hole into a tall fir to tell the age and how fast it was growing.

Photos from Hopkins Demonstration Forest and Tryon Creek Hike

If you are interested in learning more about sustainable forestry, they offer Community Forestry Days on the 2nd Saturday of each month where you can be part of the action in the forest.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Session 4 - We All Need Trees

Today the students learned about the different ways we use a forest. They played the ‘Forest Appreciation Team Relay’ where they learned about the forest consumers (people in recreation, people and jobs, people and products, and animals and the Earth) and the benefits that each group takes from the forest (hiking, ranger, lumber, clean water, etc). It was great to get outside, work as a team, and race to find their consumer’s benefits! The students also sorted items collected from my home that were man-made or came from a plant/tree. You can try this game at home, searching each room to find objects from the plants or the forest.

The students finished their mason bee nest and these can be installed at your home by trying some rope or string between the two side nails and mounting it on a fence within 100 yards of the plants that you would like pollinated in the spring. It is best to face the nest east to catch the morning sun and place it at least 1 yard from the ground. These native bees are small, nonsocial, and nonaggressive; you may only notice that they are around if you find holes blocked with mud by the end of spring. You child is welcome to decorate their nest but it is not recommend to stain the wood as those chemicals may discourage the bees from using it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Session 3 - Native Plants

This week the students learned about some of our native plants by observing them in the classroom and using their observations to write a poem or song. The students found out last week that rhyming facts makes it easier to remember - shiny leaves of three, let them be (poison oak), round and red you may be dead (holly and red elderberries), rushes are round, sedges have edges (difference between wetland grasses). Here is a collection of their poems from the class:

Native Plant Poems

They had also a chance to drill holes into a wood block for their mason bee nest. These bees are small, non-aggressive insects that are very important pollinator of native plants. The students will finish their nest at the next class (Oct 24th) and will be able to bring it home to hang in your yard. If you would like more information about how to make a mason bee nest, I have uploaded the directions we used to Google Docs:

Mason Bee Nest Directions

Have fun planting your new native plant! If you misplaced the information card for the native plant your child brought home, here is the link to the full document:

Native Plants Info

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Native Plant Sale at SWCC this weekend!

Session 2 - What's Growing at Stephen's Creek?

This week the students explored the Stephen’s Creek Nature Park (SW Bertha Blvd. and SW Chestnut St). Today was the first day of native plant identification and they were able to sample a few of our native berries (not collected from Stephen’s Creek as it is a Nature Park). Today they students saw Oregon Grape, Cedar, Douglas Fir, Large-leaf Avens, Nootka Rose, Snowberries, Thimbleberry, Hazelnut, Sword Fern, Bracken Fern, Vine Maple, and Big-leaf Maple. Take a moment to download our ‘Test your leaf knowledge’ pdf and see how many plants your child can identify!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Green and Growing - Session 1

This week the students learned about the basic tool of field scientists - observation. They became aware that sometimes we miss important details when only using our eyes, missing the smell of the Japanese Glorybower leaf or the texture of the fringecup leaves. As you notice leaves together this week, ask your child to describe the leaf’s texture, shape, edges, and thickness to you. If you don’t have time outside, try to explore your house using your senses with your kids - a field scientist can make observations anywhere! I have uploaded three observation forms to Google Docs that you can use with your young scientists:

  1. Leaf Observation.pdf - table to record sight, touch, hearing, and smell observations of leaves
  2. Leaf Observation Venn Diagram.pdf - compare and contract observations of two leaves
  3. Observation game.pdf - similar to the ‘phone call’ game played in class; use descriptive language to get your partner to match your pattern

The students also heard the story of Dr. Geerat Vermeij, a man who was blind by the age of four and is now a world-renowned professor of marine ecology and paleobiology through his study of shells using mostly his sense of touch. If you would like to learn more about Dr. Vermeji you can find his biography ‘Privileged Hands: A Scientific Life’ at the local library or go to this kid-friendly site:

Next week we be walking to Stephen’s Creek Natural Area for our first outdoor field study. We will go rain or shine so please have your child dress appropriately. They will be learning to identify native plants, which ones produce nuts/fruit that are safe to eat, and which ones not to touch!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

For more information about this fall's EcoThink Science Enrichment course, please see the class permission form:

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Introducing the EcoThink Science Enrichment Program

Are you interested in learning how a field scientist works? Do you know which plants in our neighborhood are native, which are invasive, and which are safe to eat or touch? What is ‘Growing and Green in Oregon”? To find out, sign up for Rieke’s fall after-school science enrichment program. We will meet on Monday afternoons - Sept 26, Oct 3, Oct 10, Oct 24, Oct 31, and Nov 7 (no class Oct 17). Two optional field trips have been planned to learn about ethnobotany (Tryon Creek State Park) and sustainable forestry (Hopkins Tree Farm).

This is a six week, hands-on unit where each week builds on knowledge and experiences from the previous week as we explore science topics in our theme ‘Growing and Green in Oregon’. The program does involve several hands-on projects that require adult supervision. We encourage parents or grandparent participation so if you are available for one or more of the sessions and would like to contribute your time, please let us know. There will be a 20 student limit so sign up today! For more information, contact

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Rieke EcoThink is Evolving!

Starting this fall, the EcoThink Club will be changing into the EcoThink Science Enrichment program! The theme for the fall term is:

'Growing and Green in Oregon'

and will explore topics such as forestry, organic farming, native plants, riverbed restoration, and ethnobotany. During the Monday meetings there will be speakers, hands-on activities, and games to learn more about each topic. We are planning field trips to Bella Organic Farms, Tryon Creek State Park, a local native restoration site, and a sustainable logging site. This program has been designed to be fun and enriching to students and parents alike. If you would like to be involved or want to take part in this science enrichment, please contact

Monday, May 23, 2011

Friday, May 13, 2011

Recycling part II - Composting

Today the students learned how to recycle food waste in worm bins and compost piles. The club took a field trip to the Seker's house to experience the steps to composting. The students started their adventure by collected and assessed compostable items from around the house. They added the food waste and shredded paper to the compost pile and had a chance to dig and search for worms. After passing the compost quiz the students had time to meet some chickens and discover three eggs in the coop - Seker souvenirs! Special thanks to Mark Seker, aka the Tutor Doctor, for a wonderful experience for the club.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The plastics are off to Farwest Fibers!

During the assembly yesterday, the EcoThink Club members helped carry all 20 bags of plastics that were collected during the Earth Week Plastic Drive to the front of the gym. Ranger Christal Florin from Tryon Creek State Park was impressed with how much plastic our community saved from the landfill! She talked to the students about recycling and about how to creating a waste-free lunch - showing examples from her lunch box. After the assembly, we packed all of the bags into her truck (it barely fit - check out the photo!) and they were off to be recycled.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Our club was featured in the Southwest Connection newspaper!

"Rieke EcoThink Club inspires green thinking for Earth Month"

Monday, May 2, 2011

Late Start Morning Hike - May 11th

Mark your calendars - we are planning a trip to Lower MacLeay Trail at 9am on Wednesday May 11th. It's a native forest along the Balch Creek. We will hike from the lower park (NW 29th Ave and Upshur St) along the river to the Stone House, or 'castle ruins', and back (about 1.6 miles round trip). For more information, check out this site:

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Earth Week Pledges

During Earth week, each student had a chance to write down a pledge - something that they would try over the next year. Their pledges are now posted in the cafeteria (thanks to the wonderful volunteers Shannon, Cindy, Ada, Margot, and Torin). What small step will you try this year?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day!

This week we collected hard and soft plastics usually can't be recycled in our curbside cans. Thanks to the Rieke community, we kept 20 huge bags of plastics out of the landfills!

On May 4th, the Tryon Creek Rangers will be coming to the school assembly to talk to the students and help transfer the bags to Farwest Fibers.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Waste-Free Lunch Trash Audit

On April 20th we conducted another lunch waste audit to compare the results between a 'normal' lunch day and a 'waste-free' day. The school reduced their total waste by 19% and food waste by 33%! Here are the findings:

Photos of the waste audit

Mar 11, 2011

Apr 20, 2011

% change





milk containers












total weight



- 19%

worst offenders:

37 unused spork containers

3-4 gallons of milk poured into the waste bin (next time will we weigh the wasted milk)

several untouched bananas/oranges but greatly reduced from the apples in the last audit

Monday, April 11, 2011

International Plastic Quilt Project

How much plastic do you use a week?

The Rieke EcoThink Club collected plastics from their homes for a week and created quilt squares for the International Plastic Quilt Project. The students did a great job and their quilt will be displayed at the school for the next two weeks. It helped us get ready for our plastic recycling drive next week.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Want to Learn More?

Ecothink Lesson 4 – Recycling and Reuse

This week we focused on Recycling and Reuse. The students created a square for the International Plastic Quilt Project and played the Garbage R’s game (recycle, reduce, reuse, reject, or rethink). Please take some time to review what your child learned during the club meeting and check out these websites with them.

Try going to ‘Recycle City’, a website from the EPA

This site has several recycling games and activities for rainy weekends or summer projects:

Cut down on your junk mail at

Have your child find the catalogs that you don’t want and located the customer numbers on the labels to help you opt-out of mailings.

Take the ‘Trash and Climate Change’ challenge

Cut down on baggies use and make a sandwich wrap out of recycled items:

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Earth week is coming soon!

Rieke EcoThink Club and Tryon Creek State Park will be hosting a plastic recycling drive April 18-22. We will be accepting clean grocery bags, bread/vegetable bags, zip lock and freezer bags, bubble wrap, dry cleaning bags, clam shell/to-go containers, and plastics lids - plastics that are not accepted in the curb-side recycling bins.

Tryon Creek State Park will also be accepting more rigid plastics, media plastics, and cell phones on April 22. For more information, go to:

Friday, March 11, 2011

Here are our results from our lunch trash audit:

65 pound of garbage in four bags

173 styrofoam trays

6 pounds of plastics

10 pounds of milk containers

48 pounds of food waste!

The worst offenders
- 65 spork containers taken only for the straw
- 53 apples with none or one bite taken out of it

This month we focused on Waste Out of Place and we conducted a lunchroom trash audit. Our results will be posted soon.

If you have a chance, challenge your family to the ‘home trash audit’ to calculate how much waste do you produce in a day. Do you produce more or less than the national average of 4.6 lbs of garbage a day?

Please take some time to review what your child learned during the trash audit and check out some or all of these websites.

Watch ‘Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout’ together from Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

Download the EPA’s ‘Trash and Climate Change: Planet Protectors Discover the Hidden Reasons to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle’ Activity Book

Go on a virtual field trip to a landfill:

Thursday, March 10, 2011

March Late Start Morning Field Trip

We had a great time exploring Tryon Creek State Park with Ranger Karen and Ranger Christal. The kids learned about the importance of fallen trees, searched for 'nursery' logs, and delighted in finding the animals that lived under them. We even were able to see a Great Horned Owl nest and deer tracks.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Late Start Morning Field Trip

Wednesday March 9th

How does the forest recycle?

Come for a special ranger-guided hike at Tryon Creek State Park
with Rieke Green Team and the EcoThink Club

Sign up in the office or email Jamie ( if you would like to attend.

We will hike rain or shine so bring boots and a change of clothes!

Friday, February 11, 2011


To make our Rieke “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” music video for Earth Day (set to Jack Johnson’s song ‘3Rs’), we need photos or drawings of:

- taking the bus
- biking
- walking to school
- using cloth bags for groceries
- using reusable lunch containers
- bringing your own water containers
- handing down clothes that don't fit
- growing your own food
- planting native plants
- turning off lights
- turning off your car (idle free zones)
- different types of recycling
- composting
- your family doing a green activity
- ....

Photos of numbers (on signs, cars, buildings, etc):

3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, 24, 27, 30, 33, 36

Please drop off your art in Ms. Reddekopp’s office mail box or email the photos to

Sustainability - What is a Wants vs Needs

This month we are focusing on wants vs. needs. Your child learned what we “need” to survive and sustain a happy, healthy life and how that differs from what we want to have in the way of possessions.

Please take some time to review what your child learned and check out some or all of these websites.

Check out the United Nations Convention on the rights of the child and download the game to help facilitate a discussion in your family about wants and needs

PBS site has lots of games and resources to explore the idea of wants vs. needs and how to save money.

Explore consumerism with your older kids. How do advertisers target your kids? This website has some interesting lesson plans and ideas to bring up at the dinner table

Before you consume (or go shopping), check out these sites

Responsible Shopper:

PBS: Affluenza:

Media Awareness Network:

Black Rhinoceros:

New Road Map Foundation:

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Styrofoam Drive and Recology Tour

Here are our pictures from the Rieke, Hayhurst, and Bridlemile Styrofoam Drive on Feb 5 and 6 and Rieke's tour of the Recology Processing Plant.

We collected 60 cubic yards of styrofoam that will be recycled instead of headed to the landfill. We collected enough styrofoam to fill one of our modular classrooms to the ceiling - that's 660 pounds of styrofoam!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Recology Field Trip - February 9th Late Start Morning

The Rieke Green Team and EcoThink club has arranged a field trip to Recology! Here we can see what is happening to the Styrofoam we have collected. This is the place where it is melted down to make material for other uses. We will have a sign-up sheet in the office for those who are interested in participating. We will meet 8:15, February 9th, at Rieke’s parking lot to arrange for car-pooling. This is a late start morning. The tour is at 9:00am. We plan for arrival time back at school to be 10:30am. For those who wish to travel directly the address is:

Recology, 4040 N. Suttle Rd., Portland OR, 97217

Friday, January 14, 2011

Thanks for coming to the first EcoThink meeting! Today your child was introduced to the concept of sustainability. We will be learning what sustainability is, how it affects us, our community and our planet and what we can do as individuals to live a more sustainable life to support future generations.

Please take some time to review what your child learned and check out some or all of these websites.

The fish game that the 3rd to 5th graders played is adapted from the Nuts Game by Juliean Edney and The Fish Game from Cloud Institute. Play it online at:

Learn about growing and purchasing sustainable food

Calculate your ecological footprint here. How many earths would it take if everyone on earth had the same footprint?

More information about the sustainability framework - The Natural Step

The story of stuff is a 20-minutes fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our consumption patterns. It exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues.

The secret life of paper - five minute video about paper waste.

Watch the made for TV movie of the story of the lorax

Or play Lorax games

Download the EPA’s ‘Follow That Trail’ activity book