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Nehemiah Archer, a first-grader at Walker Elementary School

Students celebrate "ecotone" at Walker

— — Parent Steve Scholl, right, — Walker Principal Michelle Zundel, and teacher Mark Sherbow, left, unveil — the Peace Pole at the Earth Day Celebration.

With dirty pants and big smiles, Walker Elementary students tromped around the natural setting in front of their school, pointing out the different species of plants.

Wolf, a sixth-grader at Ashland Middle School, came back for Earth Day this year to teach younger children about the &

ecotone&

and plant some new seeds of his own. Wolf pointed out a rare Baker cypress tree he planted last year.

&

It&

s grown more than half of what it was before,&

Wolf said.

Every student at Walker Elementary plants a flower at the school&

s annual Earth Day celebration, and this year&

s brought a few extra gems.

A small stream runs by the young trees that have grown from seedlings in the last year, and a wheelchair-accessible walkway traverses the park to the school&

s main entrance.

Tim Brandy, a teacher at Walker Elementary, has been working with first- through fifth-graders to develop the area with indigenous species of plants. Every year the school unites, and every student puts in a little volunteer work to maintain the place. Its name &

ecotone &

refers to a transition area between two adjacent ecological communities. For Brandy, the area is a mesh between the school and Walker Avenue.

&

When we first started in 1992, this was all grass,&

Brandy said. &

Now we&

ve replaced it with native plants.&

Students have been making improvements on the area every year, including revealing Paradise Creek. The tiny trickle of water was always running underground in a concrete culvert, and students and teachers transformed it into an aesthetically pleasing stretch of running water. Students and teachers dammed the creek, built a small, natural creekbed and diverted the water through the ecotone.

An $800 grant from the Ashland Schools Foundation helped fund material for the ecotone, including 400 flowers and 450 plants and trees that are dispersed throughout the lush courtyard.

The school even brought in donated metal art and benches in the form of monarch butterflies, complete with milkweed plants to attract the creatures.

The annual celebration ended this year with the entire class of Walker Elementary filtering out of the building into the ecotone for a dedication of Ashland&

s fifth peace pole. The wooden stake reads, &

May Peace Prevail on Earth&

in English, Spanish, Swahili and Chinese.

The symbolic pole &

one of 200,000 in 180 countries &

was inspired by the peace pole at Lincoln Elementary, Walker teacher Mark Sherbow said. When the school closed in June, many Lincoln students migrated to Walker, and the idea of the peace pole followed. Other peace poles stay at Southern Oregon University, the Ashland Food Co-operative and Soundpeace.

Singing and poetry brought the dedication to a close with representatives from every class saying their part about peace.

&

You think about what it takes to have 5- to 12-year-olds standing for half an hour incredibly well-behaved. It makes me think there&

s peace in our community,&

Walker principal Michelle Zundel said jokingly.

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 x 227 or apanebaker@dailytidings.com.