In Arcadia High School‘s AP Environmental Science (APES) classes, students are required to have at least eight hours of “service learning,” an activity that connects classroom curriculum with serving the community through environmental service projects.
Emily Zheng, a junior at Arcadia High School
Different types of service learning include, but are not limited to, beach clean-ups, river or stream clean ups, tree planting, fire restoration, trail maintenance, organizing a recycling or e-waste program, creating and installing storm drain warning signs, cleaning up a vacant lot, organizing a composting workshop, campus litter patrol, and planting and maintaining native garden in the community. This is an essential portion of APES because the subject challenges students to connect their daily lives and the actions of their community with global environmental, economic, and social issues.
I am using a pick axe and shovel to clear the area around the root before using the weed wrencher.
For my service learning project, I removed highly invasive, non-native plants by hand or with pick axes that were preventing native plant recovery in the Station Fire burn area near Sunland. At the site, I learned that these plants are highly invasive because they have reproductive success through high seed production or long flowering periods.
Using the weed wrencher to pull out the weed from its roots.
The greatest risk of having non-native, invasive plants is habitat loss: These plant species are usually aggressive and opportunistic, which eventually ends allows them to outcompete native species for resources. The wildlife depends upon plants in their ecosystem, so once those plants disappear, the wildlife populations will suffer. Many invasive plants will develop monocultures, diminishing the biological integrity of the ecosystem.
With one of the biggest weeds I pulled that day!
Our target weed was the Spanish broom. Planted by Spanish colonists, they were used to stabilize hillsides because of their long roots that can latch firmly to loose soil. However, these non-native plants are highly invasive because each branch contains two pods which can be easily scattered, and each seed that falls onto the ground can last anywhere from 80 to 180 years.
A more challenging way to get rid of weeds: I had to climb a steep, rocky slope and get rid of the weeds there! The result: a cut on each leg, but it was worth the challenge. 🙂
The recent fire in the mountain area destroyed most of the trees and sprouted thousands of Spanish broom seeds. If they are not removed, these weeds will eventually create monocultures, destroying the biodiversity of the ecosystem. After learning about this from one of the frequent volunteers, I took my weed wrencher and pick axe shovel and went down the road, removing any that I saw.
With the supervisor Drew Gillette in front of the US Forestry Service van that took us to the site!
After I finished that, I scaled up a very steep and rocky hill, removing weeds as I ascended. After a long day, the team finally removed every weed they could find in the area, and we headed back home. It was a completely new experience and, despite the strenuous work, I am very glad that I did it!
— By Emily Zheng