Restoring a Blighted Creek with an Environmental Science Grant

 In Environmental Science Grant Program, Science Grants Program, teacher grants

by Anita Brown, Program Officer

“Our sixth grade students are continuing to work on the restoration of a blighted creek a few blocks from the school. They conduct scientific research and engage in service work at Courtland Creek in East Oakland…. This year we intend to visit another nearby creek where the extensive restoration of another once blighted creek can provide a vision of a restored creek habitat and help generate ideas to improve our own.” – Tim Marshall, Melrose Leadership Academy Science Teacher


At Melrose Leadership Academy, 6th grade science teacher Tim Marshall centers his Life Sciences unit on “creek studies,” using the school neighborhood’s Courtland Creek as the focal point.

“Last year’s sixth grade students removed non-native plants, planted native species in their place, and wrote a field guide for visitors to the creek in collaboration with the East Bay Academy for Young Scientists (a project of the Lawrence Hall of Science).” This year, with an Environmental Science Resource Grant from PVF, Tim’s class of sixth grade students visited the Oakland Museum of California to learn more about the creek systems in Oakland, viewing exhibits about their local watershed, including maps, historical photos, and a life-size culvert. The students also went to Sausal Creek and met with scientists and Friends of Sausal Creek, learning about its restoration.

PVF’s Chief Operating Officer Dawn Hawk and Program Officer Anita Brown were invited to hear these students present their own proposals on what should be done to improve the health of Courtland Creek. Other members of the community were also there—neighbors, teachers, and Beto Bracho, a local expert on creek restoration.


Students proposed removing non-native and invasive plants and planting native and non-invasive plants. They suggested observing and collecting data from the creek, cleaning the creek and testing the water regularly, and nurturing plant and wildlife growth.

Tim mentioned that students will continue their involvement with Courtland Creek as seventh graders, learning about water testing and other related activities as part of the science curriculum. He hopes to connect with other teachers across different grades in the school to build a comprehensive curriculum surrounding Courtland Creek’s restoration and maintenance.

PVF’s Environmental Science Resource Grant program is made possible with funding from the Lampert Byrd Foundation.

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