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5441 SE Belmont St
Portland, OR, 97215
United States

(503)719-6779

Confluence Environmental Center

Blog

2016-17 Members + Fellows Graduate

rob loucks

And in the blink of an eye, a year passes and we send these lovey folks off into their next adventures!

Our year was full of joys and challenges, friendships and mentors, snow storms and donated pastries.

Through it all, our AmeriCorps Members and Fellows accomplished so many amazing things. Here are some numbers to give you a taste of what the fantastic work they did:

  • 135 relationships built do expand capacity
  • Engaged 3,532 adults in underserved communities
  • Engaged 4,687 youth in underserved schools and communities
  • Engaged 1,841 volunteers in 10,480 hours of volunteering
  • Planted 14,871 trees and shrubs
  • 86 environmental restorations in underserved communities
  • 41,346 hours served as an AmeriCorps cohort

We wrapped up our year with a back-yard celebration with a special keynote address from Confluence Alumni Xao Xiong who shared her story of vulnerability and her message of courage with all our newly graduated members.

Thank you for all of you hard work. Thank you to the supervisors and project sites for mentoring our members and giving them opportunities.

We wish you all the best of luck

Ross Island Adventure

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IMG_1888.JPG

For our June team meeting, Mason and Molly put together a fantastic day of paddling and pulling.

We started by meeting up with Marci Krass (AmeriCorps Alum!) from Willamette Riverkeeper who took us out on canoes to Ross Island, a former gravel mining site in the middle of the Willamette River.

The island is now owned by the city and is undergoing restoration. Susan Hawes, from the City of Portland, joined us on our trip to the island where we pulled invasive Garlic Mustard plants.

After Lunch we were joined by Kurt Carpenter of the USGS whotalked with us about the cause and effect of harmful algae blooms.

We wrapped up our time on the island by conducting our own water quality tests to see the health of the river with our own eyes.

The team meeting was a really fantastic continuation of the learning with did on MLK day with the Portland Harbor Community Coalition about the health and history of the Willamette river and those who's lives it effects.

Alumni Spotlight: Natasha Lipai

rob loucks

Natasha served with the Confluence AmeriCorps Program in 2013-14 as the Tree Plan Outreach Coordinator with Portland Parks and Recreation. We caught up with her over email to see what amazing things she's been up to since Serving.  

Why did you join Confluence?

I was fresh out of college and eager to find work experience that involved community involvement and GIS. I was thrilled to be accepted for such a meaningful role--not only for the outreach aspect, but also "for the trees." I had been volunteering on the Street Tree Inventory with Urban Forestry for a few years prior to being accepted as the Tree Plan Outreach Coordinator, and I was excited to help other tree stewards use the inventory data to improve their community forest. On a human-level, Confluence's message of social justice and inclusion within the environmental movement appealed to me. 

What were some of the most important things you learned during your term? 

I learned that environmental justice will not be solved within an 11-month AmeriCorps term, and that any environmental justice effort takes serious relationship-building with the communities that you want to serve. Being the first Confluence AmeriCorps member with Urban Forestry, my efforts were ultimately just laying a foundation for future AmeriCorps members to continue the good work. Event facilitation--especially being prepared for adverse weather--was one important skill that I picked up. I also learned the importance of tracking your work activities--such as the number of volunteers that show up to your events, or saving a template of something that you created--and, as a result, I realized that my personality lends well to swimming in details. The most important learning experience, though, was discovering "self-care" and discovering that it is OK to refill your figurative cup so that you can continue to give. 

What are you up to now?

I still work with Urban Forestry and have worked in a variety of field and administrative capacities since my AmeriCorps service. Though I no longer work in an education and outreach capacity, I am learning new skills related to regulation, communication, and field operations. Confluence and Urban Forestry have both been extremely supportive as I continue to "figure it out" as a twenty-something, and for that I am extremely grateful. I am still debating whether to take the grad school plunge. 

How did your time with Confluence prepare you for next steps in your career/life path?

As a result of my time with Confluence, I now better respect my inner urge to strike out and see new places, or take hikes, or try other intimidating activities. My sense of self has been enhanced in ways that I could not imagine. 

What's a really great song?

"Bidi Bidi Bom Bom" by Selena

"Africa" by Toto

"Take Me Home, Country Roads" by John Denver

Any song with a dance beat, 80s sound, or nostalgic twang. It's too hard to pick just one. 

2016 Annual Report

rob loucks

Our 2016 Annual Report is here!

We are so proud of all the amazing work that our Members, Fellows, and community partners have accomplished in the two program cycles that span 2016.

Download the PDF of our 2016 Annual Report for a letter from our Board President, stories of success and some impressive impact measurements.

Download the report

Congratulations to our 2016 Fellows and Green Lents

rob loucks

Its hard to say goodbye to our 2016 Fellows and 2 year partnership with Green Lents.

Izzy championed a massive community survey with the help of interns to gather community input about the future of this rapidly changing neighborhood.

Adriana brought to life many new pollinator habitat sites and created a pollinator monitoring handbook now in use across the region through Metro.

Spencer sharpened the tool library by building protocol, leading workshops, recruiting volunteers and maintaining tools.

Michelle put on the finishing touches on the Malden Court Community Orchard by overseeing the implementation of infrastructure, construction of the gathering space and the grand opening ceremony.

Over the past 2 years Green Lents gathered threads of community involvement to weave a strategic plan that funds, supports and builds a strong neighborhood.

What were disparate programs and initiatives are now a stronger, unified organization that has the capacity to support and guide Lents to be a healthier and eco-friendly neighborhood as Lents continues to grow.

This capacity building effort successfully built systems and a strong volunteer base and culminated with the expansion of the board as well as the hiring of the first paid staff position at Green Lents.

These past two years have been a huge period of growth for the Fellows Program as we learned new and innovative ways to build capacity in emerging non profits with an environmental focus in underrepresented neighborhoods.

We look forward to the exciting changes as we welcome our new partnerships with Friends of Gateway Green and Green King. 

 

 

Welcome our 2016-17 AmeriCorps Members + Fellows

rob loucks

On September 13th we proudly welcomed our 6th AmeriCorps Team and 3rd Fellows cohort, along with their supervisors, into the Confluence family. This is the first time we've started both programs at the same time. We're looking forward to an exciting year with many opportunities for collaboration and community building.

This year marks the Fellows program's transition from 2 years working with Green Lents to a new 2 year relationship with the Friends of Gateway Green and Green King.

You can learn more about what our Members and Fellows are up to by checking out their pages:

2016-17 AmeriCorps Members

2016-17 Fellows

2015-16 AmeriCorps Members wrap up an amazing year!

rob loucks

The 2015-16 AmeriCorps team, minus Meredith and Lindsay who weren't able to attend.

The 2015-16 AmeriCorps team, minus Meredith and Lindsay who weren't able to attend.

Our stellar 2015-16 AmeriCorps team wrapped up their year of Service on July 29th with a lunch and ceremony at Overlook Park in North Portland. Here is a snapshot of what they accomplished over 11 months of hard work:

  • 7,952 Adults educated
  • 4,536 Adults educated were in communities of color or low income
  • 10,549 Youth engaged
  • 5,890 Youth engaged were in communities of color or low income
  • 20,076 Volunteer hours
  • 30,300 Trees and shrubs planted
  • 54.53 Acres of invasive species removed
  • 231 Public lands and greenspaces managed.

 

 

Salmon in the Classroom; Kids in Nature

rob loucks

Photo by Michael O’Leary

Photo by Michael O’Leary

 

Originally published as "Raising Salmon in the Classroom: What the Association of Northwest Steelheaders is doing to inform and inspire future environmentalists."

“They’re here! They’re here!” twenty five 3rd graders shout as I step into their classroom holding a small, non-descript cooler. Inside are 500 pink spheres that are causing this classroom to descend into chaos. As we all gather around an aquarium tank, we talk about what I’m holding: salmon eggs.

Every fall and spring, Steelheaders pick up fish eggs from local hatcheries and deliver them to excited elementary students as part of the Fish Eggs to Fry program. The students get to see firsthand how a salmon wiggles out of the gravel when it hatches and slowly absorbs nutrients from their stomach yolk.  Students check the tank every day by taking temperature units, observing the fish, and monitoring the water quality. Many classrooms draw maps of the watershed they live in and learn about environmental conditions that effect salmon. Once the salmon have reached fry stage, or when their yolk sacs have been used up and they need to start feeding on tiny organisms, students release them into rivers. The Steelheaders work with educators to provide release day field trips to riverside parks to learn about macro-invertebrates, water quality testing, or a host of other topics, turning nature into their classroom. Allowing the students to release them into rivers creates a connection between student and watershed. When they see it, they daydream about where “their” salmon is, whether hiding in shady pools in a fast-moving river or cruising through the wide open ocean.

Classrooms who participate in the Fish Eggs to Fry program qualify to be in the Eco-Schools Network. Other teachers use their Schoolyard Habitat to talk about native plants in their local watershed. This program is just one way educators and non-profits like the National Wildlife Federation and affiliates are bringing nature and outdoor learning into regular class schedules.

This spring, the Northwest Steelheaders hosted the first annual Family Fish Camp.  Thirty dedicated volunteers gave up a weekend during the peak of the Steelhead run to teach about one hundred people to tie knots, the importance of rules and regulations, and how to cast a fishing rod. This fun weekend, aimed at beginners, allowed parents and their kids to learn together. Most had never even held a fishing rod before, let alone a wriggling, slippery rainbow trout! By the end of the weekend, even the most timid of anglers was casting with confidence.

The Association of Northwest Steelheaders has a long tradition of advocating for habitat conservation, fisheries protection, and anglers rights. With the age of technology upon us and more and more youth unfamiliar with nature, programs that connect kids to the great outdoors and demonstrate that nature is educational and fun are vital for future conservation efforts. As the Affiliate of the Year for National Wildlife Federation, the Association of Northwest Steelheaders is proud to provide new opportunities for our community members and youth to connect with nature and find an outdoor activity they love. These meaningful experiences help improve physical, mental, and emotional well-being, but they also inspire young people to become champions for environmental preservation.

-Molly Orr

Stacy's vision of the future

rob loucks

Stacy visited with students at Alliance High School to talk about the future of renewable energy. She gave an informative talk about how energy gets used up in our current lifestyles. There are amazing energy efficiency technologies being developed and put into practice that will create many new jobs in the future. 

After a long conversation about our environment and the complications of managing our energy future it sounds like these students are ready to be the next leaders in combating climate change.

Spring planting at Trillium Charter

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Trillium students planting along N Interstate Avenue

Trillium students planting along N Interstate Avenue

Rain or shine, middle school students at Trillium Charter School were outside planting.

On this overcast morning, students broke into groups to find the ideal planting location for their plant and got to work. The planting was the culmination of weeks of classroom learning lead by Nora, the School Garden Coordinator and two-term AmeriCorps Member. The over 15 native species represented include golden rod, aster, and meadowfoam.

Nora distributing plants

Nora distributing plants

A partnership for a park planting

rob loucks

Meredith with The Nature Conservancy and Emily with Portland Parks and Recreation partnered for a wildly successful volunteer planting event on Saturday morning.

An unexpectedly warm and sunny day welcomed dozens of volunteers of every age to plant natives at The Buttes Natural Area in SE Portland.

CALC students help plant for clean water

rob loucks

On a sunny March afternoon while getting a preview of summer weather, CALC students joined Kellyn, the Water Resources Technician at Clean Water Services, for a day of planting and learning.

Half of the students planted native plugs along the Fernhill Wetlands while the other group planted in three different spots to test the success of varying planting techniques.

After all the plants were in the ground, students lead a plant identification walk around the wetlands culminating in a fast paced ID game which had competitors racing to correctly identify the leaf, twig or flower.

When the day was done, students were gifted a seed ball that they could throw into the wetland to help keep this special land healthy.

The 2015 Livable Lents Community Report

rob loucks

In 2015, the Confluence Fellows helped to support a massive effort to survey the residents of Lents to learn what they community wanted their future to look like. From the report:  "...we share the many creative ideas, preferences and wisdom we heard from Lents community members about how we might work together toward a more livable Lents for all."

Download the PDF

Mushrooms are the fruit of fungi

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Leah quizing the team about mushroom features

Leah quizing the team about mushroom features

Spring time is morel season!

Unfortunately, we didn't find any on Friday, but we did learn about them.

Marc and Patrick organized an extensive Team Meeting of fungi learning. For instance, did you know that mushrooms are the fruiting body of a fungus? Similar to the apple on a tree and its roots.

Mushrooms growing in a plastic bag full of sawdust

Mushrooms growing in a plastic bag full of sawdust

Nik gave us a deep overview of fungus. Leah shared tons of information about classifying and identifying different mushroom species. Brad gave us some great pointers for mushroom foraging. Travis even taught us how to grow our own!

After enjoying a cup full of Patrick's mushroom soup, we tested our knowledge out on the trails of Tryon Creek State Park. A lucky few even found some slime molds and some edible puffballs.

Bonus knowledge: ALL mushrooms need to be cooked before they're eaten. Word on the street is to saute them with butter.

Half way there!

rob loucks

February marks the halfway point for our AmeriCorps Members! Despite their busy schedules we still managed to convince them to dress fancy and join us for lunch.

We still have over five months with our team, but we're going to miss these goobers when their gone. At least we'll still have this picture to keep us company:


MLK Day of Service with Playworks NW

rob loucks

Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. - Martin Luther King Jr.

On Monday January 18th Confluence AmeriCorps Members and staff joined up with folks from Playworks NW in the basement of the Mt. Tabor Presbyterian Church to prepare for our day serving the community.

We started the day with a delicious breakfast spread and took some time getting to know each other. After an inspiring introduction from the planning committee, we divided into groups and headed off to four different senior living and memory care facilities. We made ourselves available to paint nails, make crafts, clean rooms, sing songs, play games and chat.

The MLK day planning committee: Xao, Jacob and Meredith

The MLK day planning committee: Xao, Jacob and Meredith

The day meant so many things to each participant, but hearing stories and being connected to an older generation was a universally powerful experience.

Thank you to Providence Irvington Village, Emerson House, Courtyard at Mt. Tabor, and Friendship Health Center for welcoming us in to spend the day with your residents.

Thank you also to Grand Central Bakery, Stumptown Coffee, and Zupans Markets for your generous donations

Reduce, reuse and compost

rob loucks

Watching the steam rise at the Nature's Needs composting facility in North Plains

Watching the steam rise at the Nature's Needs composting facility in North Plains

Managing food waste is not just about composting. It's important to plan your meals so you don't buy too much food. If your planning is a little off, having some food scrap tricks in your back pocket is always a great plan.

Luckily, in Portland, we have curbside composting so when your meal plans and your scrap recipes aren't enough you can send your food waste to be turned into soil amendments.

Food waste Jepardy

Food waste Jepardy

Stacy and Emily warmed us up with a round of food waste jeopardy before breaking us into two groups.

One group went with Emily to the kitchen where they learned how to make vegetable stock from left over veggie bits. The other group joined Stacy to share meal planning and food storage ideas.

After enjoying a delicious meal prepared by the folks working with Emily we took a field trip to Nature's Needs to see first hand how a large scale composting facility operates. We were even treated to a show by Frank, on of the falcons on staff to keep pests away from the facility.

Frank enjoying a snack after finishing his work

Frank enjoying a snack after finishing his work

Oh, what you can learn in a day!

rob loucks

Bridget teaching how to make tamales

Bridget teaching how to make tamales

Molly and Jamie herded all the talented cats together for this day of awe inspiring skill sharing. Or rather, lets call it skill gifting because to have a skill and be able to share it is a gift. Our day was filled with cooking classes, bike repair, plant identification, yoga and a wide variety of craft skills. Folks learned how to drive a stick shift, make salad rolls and dream catchers. Lindsey even set up a pop up block printing studio.

As winter approaches we have more than enough ideas of how to pass the time.

Stacy teaching folks how to use sewing machines to make neck warmers

Stacy teaching folks how to use sewing machines to make neck warmers

Lara and Meredith working on their block prints

Lara and Meredith working on their block prints

A jar of Caitlin's home-made, non-toxic cleaner

A jar of Caitlin's home-made, non-toxic cleaner

Fellows finshing their first program year!

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April, Izzy, Haley, Amie and Emily

April, Izzy, Haley, Amie and Emily

Congratulations to Haley, Emily, Izzy and and April on being total rockstars during the pilot year of the Confluence Fellows program.

Working tirelessly with the Lents community to expand the tool library, establish a community orchard, survey community needs, and more.

We are so proud of their hard work and wish them the best of luck in their next endeavor.

shelter, water, fire food

rob loucks

Dan Daly teaching about tree pitch

Dan Daly teaching about tree pitch

The four things you need for survival in an extreme scenario, in order of importance, are shelter, water, fire and food.

Thanks to Dan Daly at Oxbow Park we now know how to build an emergency shelter, start a fire, identify common plants and trees, how to dress for warmth and pack for nature outings.  As we learned, "cotton kills and synthetics save".

In the afternoon Caitlin and Matthew took some time to teach us about water purification and wild edibles.

The beginning stages of an emergency leaf shelter

The beginning stages of an emergency leaf shelter

Testing out tree knowledge

Testing out tree knowledge