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Fish get new homes from Christmas trees
Willows Intermediate School students are breathing new life into dying Christmas trees.
The Nobel Pine and Douglas-fir trees that made dozens of living rooms brighter during the holidays, will now be converted to suitable habitat for small fish.
The students, all youth involved in the school's River Jim's Adventure Camp, will recycle the discarded trees at Stony Gorge Reservoir today, and will make another trip to lake as long as trees continue to be dropped off behind the bike racks at the school.
"I think it's a good idea," said Alexis Romero. "It gives fish a better chance at survival, especially when you know that some fish are in danger of becoming extinct."
It also helps keep trees out of the landfill, students said Thursday, as they drilled holes in the trunks to secure the cable.
Math and workshop Teacher Jim Shively, Adventure Camp administrator, said the trees will provide shelter to young and small fish so they will not be over-fished by larger predators.
The tress will be secured upright in the shallows near the shore, and will become completely submerged as winter runoff raises the water level.
"The students have an ulterior motive," laughed Shively. "The spot is next to where we camp, and they plan to go fishing there this spring."
Although this is the first year for Adventure Camp students to recycle Christmas trees into habitat, students have been involved in the camping adventures at Stony Gorge and other campgrounds in the North State for several years.
Students, some now in high school, say they would attend school 365 days a year for more opportunities like these, Shively said.
The camping program is designed to build relationships between teachers and students, which ultimately helps students do better in school — and do better in life.
"I use to be so shy," said Romero, 15, who has been involved in the program two years. "I would never ask a question. Now I'm a lot more confident, and I'm not afraid to ask questions."
Shively, a long-time Willows Boy Scout leader, has long understood the benefits of engaging children in activities that build character, encourages personal growth, increases physical fitness, makes responsible citizens and allows student to forge strong bonds with good role models.
He's dedicated the past few years working on his master's degree at Chico State on the relational approach to cooperative classrooms, and the value of strong teacher-student relationships in proactively addressing disciplinary problems.
"There has been tons of research on the subject," Shively said.
Last year, a group of six teachers, both male and female, took as many as 30 students on camping expeditions on the school's furlough days, and the Adventure Camp has several more trips planned in the spring.
"It's a lot of fun," said student Edgar Ruiz. "We've gained a lot of experience from being in the woods."
Students simply have to bring sleeping bags and personal items on the expeditions — and the food, shelter and transportation is provided by the program.
For the most part, the activities have helped students build positive relationships, not only with their teachers, but with their peers.
The results, Shively said, have been staggering: Better grades and less discipline problems in school.
"This is an awesome thing we have going," he said.
When first implemented in 2006, the program received funding from Glenn County Office of Education's Spark afterschool program and other sources.
Funding has since dried up in the education budget, Shively said, so he hopes to fund the program in the future by forming partnerships in the community.
Students also plan to help with fundraising activities, such as holding an annual Spaghetti dinner. ï¿½