Volunteers at the June 8 community planting event. They installed plants along an ephemeral creek,

On June 5, students from 19 classes at Scenic Heights Elementary School in Minnetonka worked together to install more than 1,500 plants, according to a press release.

Throughout the day, 475 students and teachers worked with staff from the Riley Purgatory Bluff Creek Watershed District (RPBCWD), Three Rivers Park District, and the school, to install a variety of prairie plants in the outdoor learning center behind their school.

Minnetonka High School students, some of them Scenic Heights Elementary School alumni, participating in the high school’s Senior Serve program, also helped to lead the event. Students planted 15 species of flowers and grasses in an area that is being converted back to native prairie.

As these plants grow, they’ll send long roots down into the soil, making paths for rainwater to soak in. They’ll also help to filter out pollutants before they reach nearby Purgatory Creek, and provide food and habitat for pollinators and other animals who live in the creek, wetland, and forest.

“It was really neat to see former Scenic Heights students come back as Senior Serve, and find that they still held a connection to the outdoor learning center,” said RPBCWD Communications and Project Coordinator Michelle Jordan.

Three days later, on June 8, 20 volunteers — including neighbors, former Scenic Heights school families, and watershed district volunteers — worked to continue the planting project. They installed plants along an ephemeral creek that flows out of a pond in the project area.

Dawn Christesen, a teacher at Scenic Heights Elementary, has been involved with the school forest since 2003, and has long been a strong advocate for the restoration project.

“Thousands of students have been involved with learning about our natural world and caring for our environment,” Christesen said. “From battling the invasives to participating in naturalist classes and geocaching adventures, stewards of the environment have been shaped and inspired. Their love for the natural world has been such a joy to witness. We could not of done any of this without the wonderful support of our community and many partnerships.”


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