In April, about 100 kindergarten students from Putnam and Cache la Poudre Elementary schools visited the Environmental Learning Center for a very special project. Together with Poudre High School students and with the help of our partner, Wildlands Restoration Volunteers, they planted over 300 willow stakes along the banks of the Cache la Poudre River. The willow stakes were cut from the plants already growing along the river, like those shown below, ensuring that the stakes were perfectly adapted to this micro-climate. We enlisted the help of our Carpe Diem volunteers, many of whom are Colorado State University students, to cut and store hundreds of willow stakes.

Willow bushes grow along the riverbank

Willows are a crucial part of river ecosystems. Their branches and leaves offer forage for deer and habitat for birds and their roots help prevent erosion. After learning all about plants from their high school buddies over the course of several weeks, these kindergarten students had the unique opportunity to actively help restore an ecosystem through planting.Eroded riverbank is planted with young willow

Now, two months later, the willow saplings are sprouting and growing roots, beginning the process of creating new habitat and stabilizing areas of the riverbank that have been eroding away. Over the years, these willow saplings will grow and branch out, taking on a life of their own and providing learning opportunities for generations of students to come. If you visit this spot on the river, please watch your step and enjoy all the hard work put in by these very young environmental stewards.

Small willow stakes sprout leaves