Looking Back: Lessons Learned from Dimond Park Community Day

IMG_1660*Student Blog by Amy White*

Creating the material for the Dimond park pet waste activity was very difficult for two reasons. One challenge was finding the information to piece together games and materials that we could use to educate the community.  The other challenge, which wasn’t as difficult, was collaborating with other team mates to agree and make group decisions. Information gathering is tough mainly due to the fact that there’s a lot of untrustworthy websites with false information or unrealistic numbers that you can potentially run into online. Thankfully, most of the websites that we looked at were accurate.  For example, we relied a lot on the Friends of Sausal Creek website and government-funded websites that have reputable data. After we found the information, we had to figure out how to write more scientific questions in words that the general population could understand.  This was maybe the most stressful part because not everyone knows technical words like Escherichia coli. Everyone in my group was very resourceful, very responsible, and we got the job done.  Making sure we all stayed focused and got the challenging work done was important, but it was a lot of fun.

One thing I definitely had fun with was leading the activity. Basically, we set up a game where there were two wrong answers and one right one; participants had to throw the ball into the right answer and if they were right they got a reward. I was helping to run this game on the day of the event and I felt like a leader, although everyone was a leader of some sort on that day.  One thing that was really difficult for me was to not get frustrated when people didn’t want to participate in the game.  It was hard for all of us at first to walk up to other people and say “would you like to play our game” but I got used to it. Other than that, the activity part of the day for sure was a lot of fun and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

One thing that I would do differently, however, was the way we set up the game. I think a lot of people would have enjoyed the game more or as much as we thought if we made it easier. Some people had no idea how to play the game and most people just didn’t have time that day. Although, to be frank, a lot of the participants were children and I’m glad they had the chance to learn something. As for asking people to do the surveys, most people agreed to participate. There was one person who didn’t do a survey and that was just because they didn’t want to but overall it was a very successful outreach day.



Young Women in STEM: How Has STEM Education Helped Me?

In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8th, some of our brilliant leading ladies from Skyline Earth Team took time to reflect on what Earth Team has meant to them this year.  This is what they had to say!

Hands on STEM learning at Earth Team isn’t just science experiments!

“It’s about making you think outside the box. We did things like write surveys, and come up with games and activities.  we learned to write questions to specific audiences, we made community connections, and we got to use artistic expression”.

“Communicating STEM results is really beneficial! It teaches us public speaking and how to be a better communicator, it helps us be more social, and it gives us better communication skills all around”.

Hands On Science means mastering math and technology!

“When we were reading instructions and learning chemical equations for field tests, it helped us understand math and how it is used in the real world.  Doing hands on STEM learning makes science and math concepts make more sense because they are in context of something you really care about!”

Hands on STEM at Earth Team has helped us become better students and people!

“Doing STEM in a program like Earth Team gave us an opportunity to be more active in the world, improve our mentality, and succeed in other areas of our academic life”.

“It has taught us respect, it has given us a work ethic, it helped us learn how to work independently, and it helped us work with other people too!”

“It gives us opportunities to be engaged with our communities in meaningful ways”.

“STEM gives us a deep understanding of the world, showing us what is essential to life”.

“It gives us an opportunity to care about the world and what people know and think”.




Dimond Park Community Outreach Day

IMG_2584On February 10th, Skyline Earth Team brought their first semester project to a close with a community outreach day at Dimond Park! The grassy area by Scout Hut was a perfect place for the team to set up their educational materials and their trivia game, which drew participants from all ages.  Oakland Tech Earth Team joined the party to lead a litter clean-up throughout Dimond Park and nearby Dimond Canyon trails.

This community outreach day gave Skyline Earth Team the opportunity to share all that they learned from the previous months full of surveys, water testing, benthic macro-invertebrate counts, research, and data analysis. This group of young water quality experts took this chance to engage park goers in dialogue about how to be a better water steward by following practices like no dumping and picking up after your pet.

The team was well received by the community, and got a lot of excited responses from people who were already passionate about keeping Sausal Creek healthy as well as from people ready to learn more!  Everyone was excited to see that their months of hard work at Dimond Park paid off with a successful community outreach event!


Community Partnerships Built at the Martin Luther King Shoreline

IMG_2402On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, East Bay Regional Parks hosted a day of service at the shoreline off of Swan Way.  Earth Team interns joined the efforts, and helped with litter clean ups using the Marine Debris Tracker App.

While Skyline Earth Team worked at this location, LPS Oakland and Oakland Tech Earth Teams engaged in similar efforts up and down the shoreline.

This team had the exciting opportunity to work with other community members, including a group of local 5th graders, on the clean up.  Students shared the Marine Debris Tracker App with locals, discussed their efforts and issues of water quality, and had the opportunity to be environmental leaders right here in Oakland.

Here are some thoughts that the interns had about the day of service.

“Most of what we picked up was plastic and styrofoam fragments, and there were a lot of constructions supplies” – Ariella

“I noticed that the community really wanted to be here and came out to help on their own time” – Jodiah

“I observed how many families came out together and how many local groups came out all together to be a part of the community” – Fahina

The team shared their thoughts about the activity, noting that using the app is helpful because having numbers and metrics is really motivational.  They saw the direct impacts of their work when they saw a sea bird trying to eat a plastic bag.  They also enjoyed working with other community members, and noted that they would enjoy training people more often.

Overall, the day of service was an exciting opportunity for Skyline Earth Team to do work outside of their normal scope and to engage in an exciting community based event!

Save the Bay Education at Martin Luther King Shoreline

Skyline Interns and LPS Oakland Interns teach peers about the history of tidal marshes in the Bay Area. 

The Saturday after returning from winter break, Skyline Earth Team partnered with interns from LPS Oakland and Save the Bay to complete education and restoration work at the Martin Luther King Shoreline.  The team of interns learned about the history of the bay area, including historic reach of tidal marshes, development patterns, and current and future restoration efforts focusing on salt ponds.  Here are some of the things the interns had to say!

“We substantially reduced the tidal marshes in the bay area” – Nick, Skyline

“Something that I learned today is that endangered species live in the tidal marsh. I learned about how there are only 2,000 Ridgeway Rail birds left and that they only live here in the bay area. The tidal marshes used to cover around 10,000 acres of Oakland and now 90% of it is gone. I learned many things that I did not know before and I was able to plant 4 plants today” – America, Skyline

“Some things that I learned today were about the endangered species such as the ridgeway rail and salt marsh mouse. I’ve also learned about how citizens of the bay area consume almost 50% of the fresh water of San Francisco Bay leaving the water saltier which can cause the wildlife to be endangered due to their lack of tolerance of the water. Last thing I’ve learned today was about the elevation of the map of California and how the watersheds goes to the bay/seawater” – Angeline, Skyline

First Semester Wraps Up!


Skyline High Earth Team wrapped up the semester nicely with a successful, but windy, weekend event with ORD.

The group of young leaders spent their final weekend event at a training event at the Martin Luther King Shoreline, during which Skyline students trained Oakland LPS students how to test water and Oakland LPS students lead a training on shoreline litter assessments.

Students enjoyed partnering together, despite the extremely windy conditions that made the project a little challenging!  The difficult conditions built a strong partnership between the schools, and at the end of the event two Earth Teams joined together into one, committed to improving Martin Luther King Shoreline through litter removal and scientific monitoring.

This weekend event was followed by a final reflective meeting, in which all Skyline interns contributed to a pot luck and took time to reflect on the first semester.  All around, the team was pleasantly surprised with how positive and friendly the dynamic of the team is.  Individuals who were concerned about feeling isolated expressed the feelings of companionship and inclusion they felt as a part of Earth Team, and the group is excited to continue the momentum moving forward into next semester.

Love and Happy Holidays from Skyline Earth Team!

Student Reflections on Oyster Bay


Oyster Bay is located along the eastern shore of San Francisco. Oyster Bay was originally a landfill filled with trash for 3 decades. Today Oyster Bay has been restored with 157 acres of land. My first impression of Oyster Bay was like me walking through another marina park. We were working on removing pampas grass and placing them in bags, we also picked 5% of the seeds from every buckeye tree and at least grabbed 50 buckeye seeds and placed the eye of the buckeye seeds down first and planted.  

On our trip to Oyster Bay we were first introduced to the plants and learned how to tell if a plant is dichotomous or not. After the introduction, we were tasked with removing stinkwort and young pampas grass for about 45 minutes. When the students from another school arrived we did a little ice breaker and used our larger groups to clear a good section of the area that was being affected by the invasive species. Once we had cleared the stinkwort and young pampas grass, we moved on to take on the adult pampas grass with shovels for about an hour and 30 minutes, after that we headed home.

My experience during this event was fun overall because the my group was friendly and we joked around during the whole event. The people from the other school were like classmates and we did well as a team especially near the end. When we were trying to remove the adult pampas grass the first one took around 20 minutes but then we came up with the idea to have one group pull a rope that was under the pampas grass while another group was using shovels to chop the roots, effectively pulling and digging up the plant at the same time making it faster. I enjoyed working with students from another school and look forward to our next event.

My observations about the plants we were removing was that it was easy to remove, not really much more. We were just picking up plants and putting them in bags.  I learned that the difference between the pampas grass and the stinkwort was that the stinkwort and the pampas grass had different textures and a different feeling.  When we broke into groups  I was in the group where we had to remove the adult pampas grass and we came up with the idea where we  used the rope to pull the grass up while other people tried to shovel the grass out.  At the end I had a good time!

Analyzing Stream Health in Dimond Park


Written by Skyline High Interns Elise, Ariella, and Amy. 

Sometimes it may be hard to decide whether a stream is healthy or not, you cannot judge solely on the way that it looks. A main factor of  determining stream healthiness is by taking a look at the insects within the water and seeing if there is biodiversity. If there is, then this means there are conditions in which many different species can survive. It is good to find that there are predatory insects because this can tell you that there are smaller ones for it to eat, otherwise they would not be present. Sometimes streams that aren’t in a beautiful surrounding area can be very healthy because no human interference would affect life within the creek. It is a good idea to consider the water source and the tributaries it flows through because it can tell us what will be affecting the stream. For example, if the stream goes under or near a freeway or a busy city then we know it is affected by the car pollutants and harmful chemicals in the atmosphere of a city. 

In Oakland’s Sausal Creek, my group EarthTeam has been doing water tests and kick-samples to examine the water and life in the creek. In our findings, there is plenty of different species flourishing in the creek. Based on physical appearance, I’d say that it is healthy since you cannot see obvious litter or pollutant in or near the water.  – Elise

Benthic macro-invertebrates are the small animals or bugs living among stones, logs, sediments and aquatic plants on the bottom of a body of water, in this case Sausal Creek. They are large enough to see with the naked eye (macro) and do not possess a backbone (invertebrate). The process of sampling for benthic macro-invertebrates involves four major parts – taking a kick sample, obtaining a leaf pack, collecting and transferring all the bugs, and identifying and enumerating them.

  1. To do the kick sample, we had to find a riffle (a shallower area with faster-flowing water and larger sediments), then hold a special bug-collecting net upright in the riffle to collect bugs. While holding the net we would pick up rocks and wipe them off in the water, and run the mud and pebbles from the bottom through our hands to get as many bugs as possible into the net.
  2. To obtain a leaf pack, we had to look for clumps of leaves that had fallen into the creek and accumulated behind rocks or other obstructions, and simply scoop it up. We would then add this to the stuff we had collected with the net to sift through for bugs.
  3. After taking multiple kick samples and obtaining a leaf pack, we had to transfer it all into a white tub, then begin sifting through it and taking out the mud, sticks and leaves to find the bugs.
  4. Finally, we had to pour the water in the tub through a sieve and pick out the bugs with entomology forceps. We used an ice cube tray to separate the bugs by species. Then we had to identify and enumerate them, recording how many of each species we found.

In practice, this process was pretty complicated, but once we learned how to do each step it got easier. It was interesting getting to see all the different types of bug species in Sausal Creek, and having the opportunity to work with a  scientist to collect data. A lot of the process was trial and error until we understood how to do it correctly, but we all had fun watching the bugs with a magnifying lens. We learned about how the different bugs and their sensitivity to pollution can indicate how healthy the creek is.  – Ariella

Water bugs are important parts of a creek ecosystem as they provide predators with food, herbivores can feed on the algae that grows on rock in the creek and dead leaves that fall into the creek, everything is a part of this ecosystem. For instance, if there was too much herbivores and not enough predators them most of the plants and algae on the rock will be eaten. This can lead to an imbalance in dissolved oxygen, that could lead to species being unable to receive oxygen to breathe through their gills. Thus most species will die until the oxygen level returns to a state that it can be functional for life again.

Many of the bugs or insects were larva of flying insects like a damselfly or a mayfly, many of these larvas have gills on their abdomens and three tails. The difference is that mayfly have feather like gills and damselfly tails are plate like. There was a really cool dragonfly larva and the way the body is designed is so that water goes into the gills and shoot out from the back as a way for the insect to shoot forward quickly. The shrimp were clear in color and very small, the snails very small  as well, it was probably because they were immature ones. The humpless casemaker was very interesting because the cocoon was made of dirt sediment and pieces of plant when it begins to make it’s case. I wonder if the insect can be killed in the case.  -Amy


Building Partnerships at Oyster Bay

FullSizeRenderSkyline Earth Team and San Lorenzo Earth Team joined forces to help make Oyster Bay Regional Park a more beautiful place! The two teams of environmental leaders worked under the direction of Pamela Beitz of East Bay Regional Parks.  She taught the team how to identify Stinkwort and Pampas Grass, and how to effectively remove both invasive species from the restoration area.

The interns focused their invasive removal efforts on an area of the park that is being converted into a community disc golf course, which is a project that will draw visitors to the park and increase awareness for issues of restoration and the environment in the East Bay.

The whole team spent some of the day removing juvenile plants before splitting into two groups to do more challenging work.  One group of youths worked together to remove massive clumps of adult Pampas Grass, using their combined strength to dig through the strong, tangled roots.  The moment when the largest grass was pulled was a moment of shared victory!

The other group of interns scanned the park for fallen buckeye seeds from established buckeye trees.  They then learned how to plant the buckeyes beneath a couple of inches of soil after digging through the tangled leaf litter on the surface of the ground.  The team of gatherers was able to plant 50 buckeye seeds along the southern edge of the disc golf course and are looking forward to coming back to the park in years to come to see how their trees grow!

Leadership  I  Stewardship  I  Service