Friday, December 14, 2012

Holiday Crafts

What do you do with you have do much English Ivy?  At this month's club meeting we learned how to make baskets out of ivy vine and photo frames out of magazine ads.  Happy holidays to you all!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Native Garden Planting

The Student Council Eco-Action Team and EcoThink Club members helped amend the soil and plant over 30 natives in the front garden.  There were muddy hands and smiles all around!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Lorax Stone

This month was the first meeting of the new Student Council Eco-Action Team.  These students signed up and were elected by their classrooms to represent them and update them on green activities at the school.  During the meeting we brainstormed activities that we could do for the Eco-Schools World Day of Action on November 7th.  One of their ideas will be used by the school, more to come on that event.  At the meeting's close, each student selected a rock and together they created a Lorax stone pile in the front native garden.  The plant that was circled by the rocks was a tall Oregon Grape; or as one of the team members called it, the 'Oregon Truffala Tree for if it is cut down, we can't plant any more'.  The whole team presented at the next school assembly, reading these lines from 'The Lorax':

"And deep in the Grickle-grass, some people say,
if you look deep enough you can still see, today,
where the Lorax once stood
just as long as it could
before somebody lifted the Lorax away.
"And all that the Lorax left here in this mess
was a small pile of rocks with the one word
Whatever that means, well, I just couldn't guess"
"'But now,' says the Once-ler,
'Now that you're here,
the word of the Lorax seems perfectly clear.
UNLESS someone like you
cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better.
It's not"
                               - by Dr. Suess

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October Soil Day!

Dirty hands were on the schedule for the EcoThink students this month.  First they took samples from the parking lot trees, the front garden, and the rain garden, mixed them with water, and then allowed them to settle into sand, silt, clay, and organics.  We then explored the textures of different soils with our guest Claudia Christensen Garcia from Portland Public Schools and Erica Stokes from West Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District.  For some of the students, it was their first time making 'mud pies'!  They were able to make observations about the soil balls that they made as they smelled and squished it through their fingers.  We all realized how we need to amend the soil in several of our gardens to make it a better environment for the plants that we will add next month.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

September Late Start Lounge

We started a new school year
and a new project!

The students worked in teams and learned how to map our rain garden with tape measures and a compass.  With their work, we created a wonderful map both of the garden but also the surrounding area that will soon become our Outdoor Classroom!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Green Flag Ceremony

8th Green Flag School in the USA
2nd west of the Mississippi
1st in Oregon

Big thanks go out to all of you who have help Rieke become a greener school over the years!

For more photos of the celebration click here:

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

First Late Start Lounge of the 2012-13 school year!

EcoThink Late Start Lounge will be meeting on Wednesday, September 19th from 9:30–10:30. These sessions are designed for students K–5 who are interested in environmental topics. The theme of our first session will be field studies and map making.  To register, please complete the permission form and drop it off in the office’s EcoThink box near the volunteer computer by Friday, September 14 (drop-in sign up is not allowed). If you have any questions or would like to volunteer please contact

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Portland just got a bit greener - 
Come celebrate the awarding of the first Green Flag School in Oregon! 

The National Wildlife Federation's Eco-Schools USA representative will be presenting Mary Rieke Elementary School the Green Flag Award on September 7th from 8:45-9:30.  To earn the top award in this program the school has developed and implemented three Eco-Action Plans - energy, biodiversity education, and consumption/waste.  The Rieke Student Council, EcoThink Club, and adult Green Team have conducted and reported audits of lunch waste, selectively delamped the facility to save energy, and participated in a full school planting to create the Wilson/Rieke Arboretum.  This effort has lead to financial savings for the school and increased environmental awareness in our community.  

If you would like to attend the event, please RSVP here.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Weed Watchers Update

During our last class the students learned about local invasive weeds.  Their favorite weed was the Giant Hogweed because the sap contains compounds that can cause severe burns when the effected skin is exposed to the sun.  They didn't find any at Stephen's Creek but this plant was found at a local school recently:  

Make sure to keep observing and exploring!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Summer Adventures

Here are some of our favorite hikes to try over the summer.  If you have any others you would like to recommend, let me know! 

4T trail in Portland - Trail/Tram/Trolley/Train.  Start at the Zoo and follow the 4T trail through the SW Hills to Council Crest and on to OHSU.  Enjoy the tram down to the river followed by the trolley to downtown and train back to the zoo.

Portland Audubon Trails - Take some time to meet the birds in the rehabilitation center before exploring the trails and birds in the wild.

Tryon Creek State Park - our old favorite - lots of trails, bridges (don't forget to try the 'bouncy bridge' - Terry Riley Bridge!), banana slugs, owls, and lots of nature programs.  They have Stewardship Saturdays every second Saturday of the month at 9am to help with pulling the ivy in the park.

Elk Rock Island - this 'island' is accessible during the dry summer months via a land bridge (great for a geology/anthropology lesson!)

Smith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area - great area for bird watching.  After hiking along the wetland trails, take your bike along the bike trail/side walk west to Kelly Point Park to play on the beach and watch the boats along the joining of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers.

Springwater Corridor bike trail - flat paved bike trail with the bonus of stopping to hiking on Powell Butte

Sandy River - dog-friendly hiking area that lead out to the Columbia River.  See evidence of beaver work and play on the sandy beach.

Saddle Mountain - our boys' first 'mountain' hike (when they were 4 and 6) and their favorite trail.  It's a 2.5 mile hike up to the top where you have a great view out to the sea and of our surrounding mountains.  A few of the areas have steep inclines so I taught the boys 'mountain side' and 'down side'.  Whenever we entered an area with a drop I would call 'mountain side' and they learned to only walk on the high side of the trail. 

Wakeena Falls to Multnomah Falls Loop - a bit more ambitious, this 5 mile loop will take you up past Wakeena Falls to Fairy Falls (with an optional 100 yard side trip to see the Wakeena Spring!), over the Gorge ridge to the top of Multnomah Falls and back down to the road.

Wahclella Falls and Bonneville Dam - stop at the Dam to learn about the wildlife (and use the bathrooms!) before heading out on the trail on the other side of the highway.  It's one mile in and out, perfect for a picnic near the falls.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

We are applying for the Green Flag Award 
through the National Wildlife Foundation's
Eco-School USA program. Here is a message from the Rieke Student Council Leadership Team:

We are the Student Council that wants to earn a Green Flag. What is a Green Flag you say? A Green Flag is a symbol that we are an eco-friendly school. We could be the first in Oregon!! So help us become a greener school by saving energy, recycling, and using the back of the paper when you draw. In order to life your spirits, we came up with a contest. Who can write the best Rieke Eco-Green Song? The winner gets a green Rieke t-shirt. SO WORK ON IT! Don’t forget the 5 Rs: Rieke, Reuse, Recycle, Reduce, and Replant (please include these in your song). The contest will take place over the summer. Bring in your lyrics in the first week of school next fall!

by Annika S., Madeline M., Sarah W., Eli M., Emily E., Thomas R., Luke H., Ike L., Luke G., Justine W., Rij D.

Friday, May 18, 2012

May Late Start Lounge

This week we met down at Stephen's Creek Natural Area to learn about invasive plants.  West Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District loaned us some plastic examples of Purple Loosestrift and Garlic Mustard to help the students become 'Weed Watchers' and they took on the task of learning what to look for and how to report their findings.  Down at the creek the students conducted their own survey with a PVC survey square and water-proof boards.  Their favorite part was designing the symbols to represent the plants in their square.  Each team also had a chance to test the pH of the stream water.  They discovered that running creek water had a lower pH than stagnant water - true scientists in training!

Pictures from the May EcoThink class

Coming soon - hike recommendations for summer adventures!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Recycling Success!

On Tuesday April 24, the Rieke community collected 40 BIG bags of plastics at the second annual Rieke Plastic Drive. That's 40 bags less to the landfill, 40 bags less to be a choking hazard for animals. Special thanks to the Tryon Creek Rangers for transporting the plastics to Farwest Fibers and to all of the student and parent volunteers who help sort before and after school. Go Rieke!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Rieke Plastic Quilt

The EcoThink Late Start Lounge added 14 new squares to our quilt for the International Plastic Quilt Project.  It will be on display at Rieke this week!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

April Late Start Lounge

This month we focused on Recycling and Reuse. We started with a recycling relay outside; the students worked as a team to sort different plastics, metals, and other objects into the correct bins - curbside recycling, Farwest Fibers/Recology, and trash/reuse. Once we came back in the classroom they were able to reuse plastics to create squares for the International Plastic Quilt Project. Their quilt squares will be displayed at Rieke next week. For more recycling activities, check out these websites with your child:

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

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Rieke/Wilson Arboretum

Oh the weather outside is frightful
But for trees, it's just delightful
Boots and jackets ready to go
Let it grow, let it grow, let it grow!

Join us tomorrow for the Rieke/Wilson Arboretum planting. We have 15 trees and 400 students who would love your support.

Special thanks to Karl Dawson from Portland Parks & Recreation, Stephanie Pringle and her ecology students from Wilson High School, and Andrea Porter, teachers, and students from Mary Rieke Elementary.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

February Late Start Lounge

Today we talked about tracking. The students were able to test their observations skills in the classroom with two game that you can play at home. First, they had a minute to look around the room and then closed their eyes. I asked them questions about the room and they answered by raising their arms to vote on list of answers. We also played an observation/memorization game with plastic farm animals. You can play this at dinner by having one person close their eyes while everyone else remove one object from the table. The object is to list what is missing.

Outside we practiced different tracking techniques. Ask your child to demonstrate the fox walk, weasel walk, scatter vision (good for looking for motion), and the benefits of using both peripheral vision and looking side to side (the playground/fabric game). We also worked on telling stories through tracks. The students had a great time drawing animals tracks on the playground with chalk. Here is a pdf of the animals tracks that we used if you would like to try this at home:

Animals Tracks

Late Start Lounge Photos

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Update on Rieke's Green Team

Check out what the Green Team has been busy with this year!

or view the individial slides here

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Styrofoam Recycling Drive

The Maplewood and Rieke Green Teams collected 40 cubic yards of styrofoam in 3 hours on Sunday! Big thanks to our volunteers - the students loved smashing the styrofoam to fit it into the bin.

Monday, January 16, 2012

January EcoThink Club meeting

Our first EcoThink Late Start Lounge will be Wednesday January 18th. These sessions are designed for students K-5 who are interested in environmental topics. The theme of our first session will be Growing Up Wild. We will be learning about local wild animals and ways to sharpen your senses to track these creatures. The students will them be able to test their new skills in observation games in the classroom and around the school playground and by creating their own animal tracks to tell a story.