It’s May 7, a furlough day for Albany schools, but for six high school students at Teloh Calapooia Park, science class is still in session.
Today’s lesson: wildlife management and habitat support for woodpeckers and western bluebirds.
Suzy Costner of Albany Options School, Josh Robinette and Ben Ross of South Albany High School, and Matt Reinertsen, Daniel Kenneke and Michael Grimm of West Albany High School are the crew on this particular Friday.
Crew leader Chris Hains, a certified science teacher, is leading them in assembling and hanging birdhouses throughout the park.
The wooden boxes are different sizes depending on the bird (woodpeckers prefer a larger house) and hung in different places (bluebirds like trees on the edges of open spaces, such as meadows).
Today’s work is made possible by the U.S. Forest Service through the Oregon Youth Conservation Corps. The local program is called the Oregon Youth Employment Initiative, and its $37,509.90 grant pays for materials, tools, boots and other equipment, and an hourly minimum wage for the young crew.
Candy Baker, principal of Albany Options School, applied for this particular grant. Students on the crew are on the job only when they aren’t in class, putting in six to eight hours
at a time.
A separate, $32,000 grant through the same initiative is being run through the Community Services Consortium for a slightly older crew. CSC crew members work during the week, mostly doing reconstruction and renovation at Takena Landing.
Both groups are focused on conservation projects. The high school crew has cleared litter, torn out ivy and blackberries, and built trails at Bryant Park.
Today, members are squelching along muddy paths to find the perfect hanging spots for some 15 houses. The homes can be placed 50 feet apart if they’re to be used by different species; 200 feet if they’re the same.
Costner, 15, is the youngest crew member today. She applied to earn some money, figuring it would be fun to work outdoors.
The group started in December and had some cold mornings, but Costner doesn’t regret signing on. “It’s an opportunity not to just work, but to learn,” she says.