Laurel Neighborhood News

by John Frando

Diony Gamoso explains the vital role of insects in the creek watershed food chain at Peralta Creek Park. Photo by John Frando .

Click to enlarge.

Watershed Education

Sharing a bag of pretzels and making mud balls were some of the fun activities that Diony Gamoso brought to Laurel Elementary School teacher Lena Why's second grade classroom to teach lessons about wildlife habitat and creek watersheds. He asked students seated in a circle to share a bag of pretzels—to reach in and grab a handful of pretzels, put in a balled up sheet of paper, and then pass it along to the next student. As the students ate, more and more paper filled the bag until there were only a couple of pretzels for the last child. "It's a lesson in native plant habitat depletion," Diony said. "As invasive, non-native plants crowd out the native plants that wildlife like to eat, the food supply diminishes."'

Forming mud balls around native plant seed was a messy in-class project, which the childen loved. Eventually, the class held a field trip to Peralta Creek Park at Wisconsin St. and Rettig Ave., where the students planted their mud balls in the rain softened soil. "These were Ms. Why's students, and of course, they loved finding pill bugs and worms in the dirt," Diony said. Check the Metro online archives for the June 2008 column on Ms. Why's fascination with insects.

Diony grew up in the Laurel, and recently returned after studying wildlife biology at UC Davis and doing field projects as far away as southern Alaska. "As a kid I remember walking up Rettig Ave. to friends' houses, without really noticing the creek. Back then, the park was a weedy lot."

He's continuing the work of NEWT, the Native Environment Watershed Transformation project. NEWT began the creek restoration at Peralta Creek Park years ago and brings a watershed curriculum into local school classroom and students to the creekside park. Diony hopes residents realize that their everyday actions at home, in the garden, in the grocery story, and in the car extend far and wide. "A gum wrapper on the sidewalk that disappears in a rain hasn't vanished. It flowed onto the street, into a storm drain, into the creek and eventually into the bay," he said. "Avoiding pesticides in the garden, bringing your own bag to the grocery store, and repairing your car of oil leaks will go a long way."

He's proposing a network among individuals and groups that live or work along Peralta Creek. Most recently NEWT reached out to Peralta Hacienda, well known for its cultural and historical education programs. Diony would like neighbors to resume joining monthly workdays at Peralta Creek Park, restoring the native plant habitat, beginning a bird-monitoring program, and simply coming to enjoy the park. Eventually, Peralta Creek might have its own version of what the Friends of Sausal Creek have created.

Laurel School News

Principal Ron Smith wanted to share these important dates with the neighborhood. The PTA Carnival will be May 15, when the school will also recognize its 100-year anniversary. Family Science Night will be May 19. Summer Intervention Programs for students needing academic assistance begin June 28.

John Frando can be reached at jfrando\