“It is important to do Community Service because it’s good social work and it’s good to have a mindset to help others”— Anne G.
By Norma Richman
Armed with work gloves and trash bags, more than thirty students from High Point Academy fanned out across the south end of Eaton Canyon Nature Center to rid the reserve of the dreaded Brassica nigra—a mustard plant that is dangerous for the environment and deceptive in its yellow beauty. Park counselors explained to the class how to identify the weed and why it is so destructive. The plant is allelopathic, meaning that it releases chemicals which can inhibit the growth of native plant species. In fire-prone areas such as the foothills of San Gabriel Valley, it is also a threat for its flammability.
The sixth graders set to work in four teams, grabbing plants at their roots and stuffing them into trash bags before the seeds could spread. Carter H. explained, “Today we came to Eaton Canyon. We weeded out the mustard plants that are invasive and harming the environment, and we bagged them up to help the earth so it can sustain itself, and native species can thrive. An invasive species can come in and spread super-fast and kill everything around it. It takes a long time to get rid of it. It feels like I’m doing something to help the ground we stand on. I feel like everyone should try to do this. Maybe we could have a few Earth Days—like a week maybe—instead of one day and then everyone can participate.”
Emma W. seconded the sentiment: “It’s important to do this so we can keep our earth clean and make sure plants and animals don’t go extinct. It makes me feel happy that we’re helping a nature preserve. I hope we can do this again.”
A warm and dusty hour later, dozens of trash bags were filled to capacity, and the students retreated to the shade of the tortoise habitat, where two sleepy tortoises were just coming out of hibernation. The indoor museum provided an opportunity to learn more about the native flora and fauna of the area, then the group proceeded to the outdoor classroom for lunch. While cooling off, the sixth graders had an opportunity to reflect on the experience of the day.
“The purpose of this activity was to pick mustard plants—the invasive kind. I think it helps Eaton Canyon look prettier so other people want to help keep it pretty too. It makes me feel good. Every little thing counts, and I’m happy that I did something good,” noted Allison K.
Anne G. summed up the experience this way: “It is important to do Community Service because it’s good social work and it’s good to have a mindset to help others. This is great because it’s good for sixth graders to be outdoors—in a new environment. I do a lot of community service work and it feels really good to help others. Some people don’t care, but I know I can do something to help.”
Eaton Canyon Natural Area Park and Nature Center is a natural preserve located at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains. This scenic 198-acre natural area was originally called “El Precipio” by Spanish settlers because of its steep gorges. It was later named after Judge Benjamin Eaton, a progressive pioneer who was the first to use irrigation from Eaton creek to grow grapes on the slopes. Today visitors can explore hiking and equestrian trails throughout the park.