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Heritage Earth Keepers share memories

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Students and artists collaborated in May, building a ceramic bench at Heritage School to highlight what they learned as they studied the Mokelumne River Watershed. The City of Lodi’s Public Works department oversaw the project as part of their watershed education program.

In the beginning ...

Ms. Jacinto’s fifth-grade class and UC Davis artist Donna Billick and her team of artists traveled to the S.F. Bay on Nov. 12, 2012, for a marine science study trip. They learned that the streets of Lodi drain into the Mokelumne River, minimally treated, then flow into the S.F. Bay. They tested the water quality and sampled the fish, mud and plankton alongside of Lodi’s Storm Drain Detective high schoolers. Sundown — trip complete! Discovery Voyage to the S.F. Bay trip on the Robert G. Brownlee, which is a retired U.S. Coast Guard ship operated by the Marine Science Institute, www.sfbaymsi.org.

Back in Lodi, 20 Heritage students decided to form an Earth Keepers Club and spent the school year conducting Friday campus cleanups. Students collected 147 buckets of trash after 17 cleanups. Grant funds allowed for several more study trips in the Lodi area, where students learned about the river and the water we use and reuse. Clean streets became about clean water!

May is Watershed Appreciation Month, so students decided to use a City of Lodi Art in Public Places grant to build a Watershed Legacy Bench, to be installed at the front of their school. A workshop with Donna Billick and her art team was held to create clay pieces to record their day studying the S.F. Bay.

Donna took the students’ clay pieces and created five panels, one for each side of the bench, then fired the panels in her Davis studio, turning the clay to ceramic.

Meanwhile, back in Lodi, a cement contractor and a few good friends helped pour the 4-feet-by-2-feet-by-18-inches cement block bench. The block took a week to cure. California Rock and Ready donated the cement.

On the morning of the dedication, May 20, Donna and Mark spent the morning assembling and grouting the tiles. Their work was done about 3 p.m., just in time for a 4 p.m. dedication. Donna added the sandblasted corner plaque with a message for posterity. Dedication guests enjoyed carrot cake, told stories and viewed the wonderful finished project.

We are very, very grateful for the funding for this art project from the City of Lodi’s Art in Public Places and Walmart.

And we are very, very grateful for the funding to support the field trips to the S.F. Bay and Mokelumne River watershed destinations from the Lower Mokelumne River Partnership — U.S. Fish and Wildlife, California Fish and Wildlife and the East Bay Municipal Utility District.

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Courtesy photograph