Teacher creates ‘Wildside’ for students

6th grade teacher David Scharfenberg is the recipient of the 2015 SOLVE Citizenship Award for his outstanding work restoring natural area surrounding the school

David Scharfenberg, the 2015 SOLVE Citizenship Award winner (KOIN 6)
David Scharfenberg, the 2015 SOLVE Citizenship Award winner (KOIN 6)

GRESHAM, Ore. (KOIN) — A Pleasant Valley Elementary School school teacher has been awarded the 2015 SOLVE Citizenship Award.

David Scharfenberg, who has been a SOLVE project leader since 2008, has been partnering with SOLVE to restore the natural area surrounding Pleasant Valley school. He has led 14 different projects with his students and the community.

“I’ve never tackled anything like this before in my life,” the 6th grade teacher says.

It began when the district could no longer afford to send 6th graders to Outdoor School, so Scharfenberg brought Outdoor School to Pleasant Valley Elementary. He calls it The Wildside.

David Scharfenberg, the 2015 SOLVE Citizenship Award winner (KOIN 6)

Over the years, Mr. Scharfenberg’s 6th graders have built a rain garden to prevent rain water from flooding into a nearby creek. They’ve planted an orchard, to grow fruit for the cafeteria.

“Many little hands make light work,” Scharfenberg says.

Across the field, they’ve created a garden specifically for pollinators.

“We’ve noticed an increase in numbers of butterflies, bumble bees, humming birds,” the teacher says.

They’ve also planted a forest to shade out invasive blackberries and English ivy.

“I think it’s really special because we all work together and create this beautiful place where we can enjoy nature and help the environment,” says 6th grader Emma Walker.

Scharfenberg wraps math, science, writing and some of life’s most practical lessons into one program. “How can you live in Oregon and not love nature? How can you not appreciate the beauty we’ve got around us?,” he asks.

KOIN only found one student with a minor complaint.

“It’s fun sort of, not with the boys because they get sort of annoying but other than that yeah it’s fun,” says 6th Lydia Nolte.

For Mr. Scharfenberg the biggest challenge isn’t controlling a classroom of 11 and 12-year-olds, it’s figuring out what hes going to do next.

“My number one challenge now is to remember I can only do so much,” says Scharfenberg. “My feeling is the more a student learns to love the beauty of nature, the beauty of what’s around them, they begin to want to protect it, to take care of it.”

For more information on how you can partner with SOLVE to help our environment, head over to the community section.

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