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Group helps cultivate environmental stewardship

students helping in the garden

Retired Valley View Middle School (VVMS) science teacher Judy Dahlberg has embarked on a mission to cultivate environmental stewardship within the Snohomish community.

After 28 years in Snohomish School District classrooms, Dahlberg's passion for ecosystem education didn't end with her retirement in 2021. Her commitment to environmental education continued outside the classroom through habitat restoration projects with fellow science teachers, the formation of the Valley View Habitat Restoration Club, and engagement in community volunteer projects involving district students and community volunteers.

Known for her passion of curriculum on ecosystems, Dahlberg focused on highlighting the positive aspects of making a difference in the environment. Her journey began in 2000 when she initiated a habitat restoration mission with her students, addressing the invasive blackberry bushes that were overwhelming on the VVMS property.

"It just made sense to teach the students about the ecosystem in their own backyard and concentrate on the positives of making a difference with our environment," Dahlberg said.

In Ed Kowalski’s, Nick Mellander’s, and Jamie Manges' VVMS science classes this school year, 7th grade students learn about ecosystems, including how matter and energy flow and cycle in an ecosystem, what makes an ecosystem well-functioning, and the impacts of ecological services that are provided by ecosystems.

“This year we decided to write a few grants, start gathering tools, and head outside to our ‘outdoor ecology lab,’” Kowalski said.

The "outdoor ecology lab" engages students in hands-on activities such as removing invasive species, studying native plants, understanding ecological disturbance, participating in replanting efforts, and practicing land maintenance. Beyond the removal of invasive species, the students engage in comprehensive studies that encompass the entire ecosystem.

“I’m so proud of our science teachers and students for bringing science to life in a real-world setting,” said Dr. Eric Cahan, VVMS principal.

To sustain the momentum, Dahlberg formed the Valley View Habitat Restoration Club around 2015. The club currently has more than a dozen core middle school and high school student members. They play games such as Biodiversity Jenga to learn how environmental properties are removed and how it can affect the entire environment’s ecosystem, as well as a card game comparable to Go Fish to learn about native plants and their purpose. Students work with Dahlberg to pick an area of land on school property to concentrate on. They set their purpose for the area, learn about biodiversity, and set goals for their restoration site.

“It's not a one and done thing,” Dahlberg said. “It’s a process that’s ongoing, and sometimes we might not see an impact for more than 10 years.”

The sustainability of the project relies on the support of the community. Funding, crucial for acquiring tools and resources, comes from grants awarded by the Snohomish Education Foundation and Snohomish Garden Club. Generous grants provide shovels, garden gloves, loppers, and bare root plants. Additionally, Dahlberg actively salvages plants, nurturing them until they are ready for planting. The project also receives generous plant donations from businesses and organizations throughout Snohomish County.

Dahlberg's commitment to environmental education has left an indelible mark on the Snohomish School District. Her habitat restoration project continues to grow, fostering a sense of responsibility and awareness among students and community members alike.

To learn more about the project or how to get more actively involved in Valley View Habitat Restoration Club efforts, contact Dahlberg at

View photos of the habitat restoration project by clicking here.