by the Outreach Team for the
Mira Loma Arcade Creek Project
The Arcade Creek project is much more than just your average high school venture. Rather, it is a fusion of ideas, a network of cooperating people dedicated to environmental awareness and preservation. It is a group of students determined to prove to themselves and those around them that their collaborative efforts can and will make a difference. It carries the undeniable power of capturing student interest at such a magnitude that they constantly strive to do their best work – not to impress their instructors, but because they feel devoted to their task at hand. This is the Arcade Creek Project.
Students in the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program at Mira Loma High School run this ambitious project each year. As part of a supplementary requirement in the IB program’s curriculum, the project already has the advantage of avid, intellectually advanced students as participants. These students are enrolled in an IB Biology, IB Physics, or IB Environmental Systems course and thus already have a solid foundation in science.
Through work in one of eight different studies, students are given a chance to do everything from mapping the creek and bank area to studying the creek ecosystem and animal life. The Chemistry study, for example, tests water samples from the creek to determine its ability to sustain life. Through the use of more than ten different chemical tests, including those for ammonia and alkalinity, the study is able to “provide the hard, conclusive data that determines the health of the creek,” stated senior manager Jon Spaulding. Another study, Long-Mapping, maps the creek to help familiarize students with their project sites and also to help detect patterns of erosion. A third study, Botany, concentrates on acquiring samples of plants whose diversity show the health of the creek. Through the creation of an herbarium, students are able to identify non-native plants and assess their degree of invasiveness. Monitoring the health of the creek and recording changes is one of the primary objectives of the Arcade Creek Project, and accurate records and careful tracking of the creek over time becomes especially important in allowing students to detect any shifts from the norm and ultimately achieve their goals.
However, this project is also about reaching out to the public and educating people on the importance of environmental conservation and preservation. Senior Katie Jensen, manager of the Restoration study (which works on restoring Arcade Creek to its original state), argues that her study has a crucial and direct positive influence on the creek. Arcade Creek continues to become a topic of increasing importance. Prominent issues have included the emergence of red sesbania in the creek, erosion of the creek bed, and political debates over selling a part of the creek to a philanthropic group that planned on building a parking lot in its place.
The project may be an IB requirement, but it also gives IB students and the science program a chance to go out and do actual field work, employing the skills they learn in school in the real world. “I have learned applications that I couldn’t have learned inside of a classroom,” senior manager Shahrzad Zarafshar tells us. The project is both an effective teaching tool and a source of inspiration.
In her article “The Young Can’t Wait,” Severn Cullis-Suzuki told young people, “real environmental change depends on us. We can’t wait for our leaders”We must become the change we want to see.” We, the students of the Arcade Creek project, are working hard toward making that message come to life by protecting our own little corner of the environment. While working to save a single creek may seem a fruitless task, it is a step forward in the ever#45;increasing battle to save the global environment. It is a chance to pass on our knowledge to other members of the community, and hopefully inspire them to do the same. Together, we will make a lasting impression for years to come.
Note from UCC President Alta Tura: Mira Loma High School’s Arcade Creek Project will be the recipient of this year’s Creek Steward Award which will be presented by the Sacramento Urban Creeks Council at the April 1st Splash Off for Creek Week. As in past years, Mira Loma students will help clean Arcade Creek on the April 9th clean up day.
This article originally appeared in our Spring 2005 Newsletter