When the Restoration Team first discussed the idea of inviting preschool classrooms out to the greenbelt, we weren’t sure what kind of response that we would get.  Soon after our invitation went out to local pre-schools, phone calls and e-mails started pouring in from teachers who loved the idea of a planting event.

To prep the land for planting, we enlisted the help of our fabulous regular volunteers. We cleared over 10,000 square feet of Himalayan blackberry to create room to plant fresh Douglas firs and snowberries.

After a few more preparations, we were ready for the toddlers that braved the cold and wet weather.  The kids trickled in as the rain petered out, each in tiny little rain boots and rain jackets excited for the day’s field trip.  Their enthusiasm was infectious!  We split the kids into two groups; one half went with our Forest Restoration Director, Lili, and Forest Restoration Assistant, Philip, and the other half with our Forest Restoration Coordinator and lead environmental educator Lizzie and teaching artist and West Seattle Art Walk coordinator, Oleana.

After explaining how a plant grows and what it needs, Lili and Philip carefully demonstrated how to successfully transplant a plant from a pot to the soil of the West Duwamish Greenbelt.  Armed with their newfound plant knowledge, the young botanists enthusiastically used their little, gloved hands to remove plants from pots, break up root masses and successfully install the plants in the ground.  

Thanks to the hard-working hands of our toddlers, we planted:

9 Douglas Firs (Pseudotsuga menziessii)

9 Red Flowering Currants (Ribes sanguineum)

10 Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus)

7 Mock-Orange (Philadelphus lewisii)

9 Tall Oregon Grape (Berberis aquifolium)

Meanwhile, Lizzie and Oleana treated their group of kids to an exploratory hike in the greenbelt. The little ones worked hard to indentify natural and unnatural objects in the forest.  Despite some concern that there might be ‘bears and tigers’ in the forest, they gladly identified trees, birds and other natural aspects of the forest.  The kids had no trouble spotting action figures and other human-made objects that Lizzie and Oleana had placed ahead of the nature walk.  Soon the two groups switched roles to allow every child an opportunity to plant as well as participate in the nature walk.  

As we wound down our time together, we took some time to have a snack and laugh about our fun in the mud. It’s these little moments that remind us why we do the work that we do. Each smiling face was full of enthusiasm and an eagerness to learn. At Nature Consortium, we see the forest as a place to play, learn, and grow. We owe it to our future generations to ensure the long-term health and sustainability of our green spaces.  As we put away the last shovel for the day, all of us left with a smile knowing that we helped inspire a future generation of forest stewards!

More photos by Jena Ingraham