Wrapping Up the Year with Richmond High Earth Team


The year has come to an end! This year Antioch Earth Team met 42 times, completing over 100 hours of education and training. Meetings included 19 class visits, 16 field visits, and 6 public events (one of which the team hosted). Together, we reached over 90 community members and classmates.  The team planted 57 trees, removed 711 pieces of litter, and created educational materials about trees and their benefits!

The highlights of our project were..

  • First Day of Tree Planting at Wanlass Park: Back in October, Richmond High interns had their first experience planting trees. Local landscaper Mae Plenty came out to share her knowledge and expertise and guided the team through their first few trees. The interns learned that tree planting is hard work and takes dedication and energy. They had fun learning together and getting down and dirty at Wanlass Park!
  • Community Tree Planting Day at Wanlass Park: This community event on March 3rd was a culmination of everything the interns learned and practiced for since the beginning of the school year. The team spent many meetings site prepping, practicing speaking and leading, creating educational materials, and performing outreach activities. The interns led over 40 volunteers, including several employees of our project partner (City of San Pablo). Altogether, the group planted 22 trees in a matter of hours! Despite rail and even hail, the interns kept the group’s energy going and made the event a success!
  • Field Trip to U.C. Berkeley’s Botanical Gardens: In early April, Richmond High’s interns had the opportunity to attend a field trip to the botanical gardens at U.C. Berkeley. The team was surprised and pleased to see the extreme diversity and detail in the gardens. The trip was guided by two docents from the gardens, both of whom were fun and extremely knowledgeable about all the plants and trees! Going on this trip provided the interns with perspective on their tree planting project and the importance of plant choice and diversity.
  • Presenting at the San Pablo City Council Meeting: To wrap up their work at Wanlass Park for the year, interns from Richmond High joined other Earth Team groups to present about their projects from the year to the council. Each member of the city council had amazingly positive and encouraging things to say to the interns and made sure they knew they were appreciated. It was great for the team to get to experience this positive moment together and use it as fuel to finish the year up.

This is my second year with Earth Team and it was been a great experience. I got to meet new people and plant a lot of trees. I get to go to events to help our community and have hands on experience to plant a tree. We get to learn a lot about climate change and ways to improve it. I get excited when I talk about the events we have done and share how fun it is to be part of earth team. Even though it may be fun to be part of Earth Team, you have to dedicate your time to it. I’m committed to earth Team and glad to be learning more about our environment. We learned about getting to know how old the tree is to learning how climate climate change is affecting everything. With temperatures rising, sea level rising, ocean acidification, ice caps are melting and etc. Earth Team gave me a chance to be out of my home and actually learn something.

-Mariana Mendez

Great job Richmond High interns!



Exploring California Flora at UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens


If you have ever been to the U.C. Berkeley Botanical Gardens, you would probably know that they span over 30 acres of land and house over 10,000 types of plants. Opened in 1890, this facility has supported teaching, research, and conservation in relation to plant biology and diversity. Our team from Richmond High had the chance to visit this vast garden earlier this week and they were amazed at the huge variety of flora.

Upon the team’s arrival, they were split into two groups, each of which was given a docent led “tree tour” of the garden. The docents explained that the grounds were split into 8 geographical regions with species native to those areas. In addition to these regions, they also have an extensive collection of California native plants, which were of the most relevance for this group and their urban forestry project.


One of the more interesting tree species the interns saw that day was the dawn redwood. Although once thought to be extinct, this tree has now been widely planted. It does particularly well in California along with the native coast redwood and giant sequoias – our climate is perfect for these trees. The largest difference between the dawn redwood and the coast redwood is that the former is deciduous – it loses its leaves in the fall. In the spring, it grows stunning bright neon green leaves.

The docents also explained how you can use the garden to get a good idea of how large different species of plants can get when mature. This information is important to know when trying to decide what types of trees to plant for a specific location. For example, if you want a pine tree but don’t want it to get very big, you can plant a pygmy pine. These pines are adapted to grow in poor soil by limiting their own growth and will stay quite small when planted correctly and in the right conditions.


The interns had a fun time touring the gardens and learned a lot. To see what they had to say about their trip, please read below. And a big thank you to our docents!

“I really love the atmosphere and our guide Susan. I got to learn a lot about different plants like dogwood trees, dawn redwoods, and old man cactus. I got to be out of the classroom and learn all about the botanical garden in Berkeley.”

Mariana Mendez, Richmond High School intern

“I found out a lot about different trees and plants. One of the trees we saw the bottom of the trunk grew outward so it can be balanced since it grows near water. We also saw different types of plants that are used for medicine.”

Erika Gonzalez, Richmond High School intern

“It was cool. I didn’t know this was here. It was cool seeing all the trees because I thought there weren’t any places like this in Berkeley.”

Kevin Hernandez, Richmond High School intern


Trees in Bloom at Wanlass Park

A flowering Western redbud.

It’s that time of year again, when trees bud and new leaves grow. As the end of the school year quickly approaches, this new growth is a reminder of the new experiences to come for our students, many of whom will be participating in summer opportunities or heading off to college come fall. When Richmond High’s Earth Team interns visited Wanlass Park at the end of March, they saw first hand how beautiful trees can be in the spring.

A saucer magnolia in full bloom.

To reach our goal of planting 60 trees this school year, our planting team still has a few more days of work to go to get 14 more trees in the ground. Soon the weather will begin to warm up, which will make planting a bit more challenging as the ground hardens up.

At Wanlass, our interns have planted a variety of species, providing a beautiful and interesting aesthetic to the park. Many of these trees are deciduous, meaning they lose their leaves in the winter and regrow in the spring. Some deciduous trees, such as the Western redbud and saucer magnolia, will produce flowers during this period and can be absolutely stunning to look at.  Other deciduous trees don’t get such magnificent flowers and instead have a more subtle regrowth of leaves (such as the blue oak or red maple).

On the other hand, several of species at Wanlass Park are evergreen, which means that they keep their green leaves all year round. Coast live oaks and deodara cedars are two examples of evergreen trees that the interns have planted. These types of trees retain more of the nutrients located in their leaves and have extra protection against damage from winter weather.

The team looks forward to seeing their trees continue to grow and thrive, just as we hope that all our interns will do as well!



Litter March 2018: A Day for Litter Awareness


Mid-march, Richmond High Earth Team interns joined forces with all other Earth Team schools in our annual Litter March in East Oakland! The day started out with a motivational speech and instructions from the LPS Oakland interns, who were the lead team for this event. After this, everyone marched around the neighborhood together, cleaned up their path, and tried to make connections with the community. After the march was over, everyone celebrated with lunch as Jennifer Stern from the City of Oakland spoke on what the city is doing to address the issues of waste disposal.

The litter march has two main purposes. The first is obvious – to clean up litter off the streets! With an attendance of over 100 people, there were plenty of people to help pick up trash. Volunteers and interns worked together to remove the litter and also log its type and location in an app called the Marine Debris Tracker. (Check out our website zerolitter.org to view a map of the data collected that day).

The second goal of this march is to raise awareness about the litter issue in Oakland and to inspire community members to take part or make a change. The students hoped that through the use of their signs and chants that at least a few individuals would feel motivated and empowered to pick up after themselves and others. Passerby showed their support with encouraging words and horn honking. Best of all, interns from schools all over the East Bay were able to come together for a common purpose. Thank you to everyone who came out and supported this awesome event!




Community Tree Planting Day at Wanlass Park

Attendees circling up to start the day.

On March 3rd, Earth Team interns from Richmond High School continued their work with the City of San Pablo to transform Wanlass Park into an educational urban forest. After weeks of preparation and planning, our Richmond High team hosted a community tree planting event, inviting community members and several other Earth Team schools. Though the weather was not ideal, the interns and public at the planted a total of 22 trees in only a few hours!

After introductions, Richmond High interns led a crash course in tree planting. They covered all of the bases – digging an appropriately sized hole, selecting the proper species, planting the tree, and ensuring the tree has proper support to survive. Once they were briefed, the attendees started planting trees!

Richmond High interns Julissa (left), Dzalia (top middle), and Cynthia (bottom middle) showing how to dig a hole.

A bit of light rain was bearable throughout the morning, but when it started hailing, we had to stop planting and eventually had to end the event early. Still, there was something about the heavy hail that brought everyone closer together (literally AND figuratively) and everyone’s moods stayed upbeat.

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Volunteers starting to dig a hole.

The Richmond High team did a great job leading and teaching at the event. They were nervous about speaking to the large number of attendees (over 60 people signed in!) but they pushed through the material and felt accomplished by the end of the day. During the next meeting, the interns reflected on the experience, and here’s what they had to say:

“I think that overall the Wanlass Community Event was a success. We did a pretty good job and lot a lot of things done. Even with the rain, we stuck to getting our tree done and getting everything cleaned up and organized until it started raining really hard and hailing. I really enjoyed getting to meet new people and it was nice to help them plant their first tree because everyone in my group had never planted a tree. It was also interesting talking to them while we were planting. One thing that I learned about having community events is that it can be hard trying to get everyone organized and listening to the information you have to give but then it’s also rewarding when you do get to do that and come together to do something positive. What I would do differently for another time would be to try to talk to more people, not just those in my own group.”

-Valeria Rocha, Richmond High School intern

“Having a community event even when you plan for weeks, it won’t come out perfect. That’s fine because then you know what to focus on for the next time you plan an event. I was actually pretty surprised in myself because I went out of my own comfort zone and talked to new people. I was the one who approached them, instead of having to wait until someone came up to me. I was with 3 girls and we actually talked to each other and got to know each other a little more. Although it was raining, it was a very fun experience working with other schools and students you may not know.”

-Cynthia Mendoza, Richmond High School intern

“I was pretty nervous to speak in front of the crowd but once I started, I felt more comfortable with myself. I met new people but I didn’t interact with others besides my group. A challenge we all had was the rain and hail and I think if it didn’t rain we could have reached a larger number of trees planted. I felt really accomplished when our group finished those 2 trees.”

-Connie Huezo, Richmond High School intern

“Our event actually went better than expected. I wasn’t nervous and planting in the rain with strangers was super fun. I was in a group with Connie, a junior from Skyline, and a mother and her son. It felt really good to help the mom who didn’t speak English. It’s awesome that I’m available to translate/speak two languages and actually put it to use. I didn’t even mind the hail.”

-Jason Varela, Richmond High School intern

Richmond High interns Jason & Connie (left side) posing with their freshly planted tree and 2 volunteers and a Skyline High intern (far right).


We want to give a huge thank you to our food and drink sponsors for the event – Catahoula Coffee, Berkeley Bowl, and Raley’s – for supporting Earth Team and our local Richmond/San Pablo communities! We also want to thank the City of San Pablo for their support during the event as well as all of the volunteers who showed up to help. A final thank you to our grantor Releaf for supporting us throughout this project.

Build, Create, & Restore @ Redwood Regional Park

Ephemeral art (n.) : art which lasts only a short period of time

What is ephemeral art? How can art and nature bring people together? Where can you find art in nature?

These questions were explored at Build, Create, & Restore, a recent event in Redwood Regional Park hosted by Zach Pine, environmental artist, and the East Bay Regional Parks District. All 14 Richmond High Earth Team had the chance to attend this event and they had a great time! The day was centered around the “Create-With-Nature Pathway”, which is a section of trail at Redwood Regional Park where the public can partake in making art with nature.

The entrance sign to the Create-With-Nature Pathway.

Along the sides of the pathway are areas partitioned off by logs for people to create art in. The purpose is not to create lasting works, but rather “ephemeral”, or short-lived, art. Not only does this allow people to show their creativity and enjoy the beauty of the redwood forest, but it also brings people together and can be a therapeutic activity.

The first part of the day was spent restoring the pathway. The pathways are lined with logs, and these logs eventually rot away to the point that they should be replaced. The students were mixed together with other community members attending the event and split into teams. The teams worked to find the right sized fresh logs to replace the old ones; some were so large that a special tool was needed to carry them. Shallow dips were dug in the ground so that the logs could fit snugly along the path.

Log being carried to its new home on the path.

After restoring the pathway’s borders and eating a quick lunch, Zach invited the group to try their hand at creating some of their own pieces of art. Most people worked in small groups to create whatever came to mind. To wrap up the experience, everyone in attendance worked on a few projects together, culminating in a bird’s nest, a multi-room log cabin, and a free-form piece with no concrete subject. The Richmond High interns were happy to do something a bit different than the norm and had a ton of fun! Here are what one intern had to say about the experience:


I really liked our outing to redwood Regional Park on Saturday. I had never been there before and I thought it was really pretty. I liked being able to interact with other people in a setting where technology isn’t a distraction. It was nice to just get to appreciate the nature and people around us. I also liked the art making because it was a judgement free zone where we could create something without it having to mean anything or even be good So it was very interesting getting to create art and music with others.

-Valeria Rocha, Richmond High intern

Interested in environmental art? Click here to check out Zach Pine’s website.
Interested in checking out the trail?? Click here for more info.



Reflecting On The Semester, Fall 2017

As 2017 came to a close, interns at Richmond High took some time to reflect on their experience with Earth Team thus far. From litter clean ups and murals to planting trees, the team had a lot to accomplish. Here are what some interns had to say:

So far in the first semester it has been fun. Being able to go and do tree inventory, cleaning up local parks and educating others on environmental issues makes me feel accomplished. Knowing that I am helping out my community in some way, shape or form makes me feel that I am actually doing something to better my community. Being an intern has helped me improve on my teamwork skills since you have to be able to work with others. So far I have learned how to plant trees and plants and how to distinguish different trees by their leaves. Overall Earth Team has been a learning experience and I can’t wait till next semester.

-Erika Gonzalez, Richmond High Intern


I was one of the Earth team interns who joined this internship a couple weeks late and it was honestly one of the best experiences. I learned and met a lot of new people that I didn’t know or talk to before. I don’t really think it affected me in a bad way other than the fact that I just had to learn how to manage my time. Then again, having to manage my time is something I’ve gotten used to which wasn’t really a problem for me. I learned a lot from being in earth team. One of the many things that will always stick to me is how careful one has to be when planting, caring, and looking over a tree. It’s not as easy as you may think. It’s so much more than just digging a hole and placing it then covering that hole back up. You have to measure it precisely to the right amount, place it in the right way and look after it even after you’ve planted it. It made my semester a lot more stressful because sometimes I couldn’t attend a couple either after school meetings or weekend due to family issues but I had to figure out a way to because I didn’t want to miss an event/meeting. I always figured it out.

-Cynthia Mendoza, Richmond High Intern


This is my second year with Earth Team and it was been a great experience. I got to meet new people and plant a lot of trees. I get to go to events to help our community and have hands on experience to plant a tree. We get to learn a lot about climate change and ways to improve it. I get excited when I talk about the events we have done and share how fun it is to be part of earth team. Even though it may be fun to be part of Earth Team, you have to dedicate your time to it. I’m committed to earth Team and glad to be learning more about our environment. We learned about getting to know how old the tree is to learning how climate climate change is affecting everything. With temperatures rising, sea level rising, ocean acidification, ice caps are melting and etc. Earth Team gave me a chance to be out of my home and actually learn something.

-Mariana Mendez, Richmond High Intern


As the Richmond High Campus Coordinator, I have seen all our interns tackle challenges head on and quickly learn and grow while having fun at the same time. I am proud and happy to be working with them and we look forward to an excellent 2018!

Tree Maintenance and Inventory at Wanlass


Near the end of 2017, the tree planting sites at Wanlass Park were overrun by weeds and in need of some attention. This prompted our Richmond High intern group to dedicate a meeting to site maintenance and also use the opportunity to collect some important inventory data. Unfortunately is was raining, but that didn’t stop our team! Donning ponchos, they worked hard (and got dirty!).

Let’s start with maintenance – good old fashioned yard work. Most of the trees planted last year had no more mulch around them, and with all the rain we got, weeds and grasses were crowding the trunks of the trees. Other issues included broken ties, loose stakes, or ties hammered on incorrectly. Working in teams, the students were assigned several trees/planting sites to correct issues at. Each planting site was weeded, re-mulched, and the stakes and ties checked for tautness. The work was messy but rewarding and got the park looking much better!

Other students had a much less messy task – tree inventory. Tree inventories are systems used to keep track of tree data and are used in city management, forestry, and utility work (to name a few). For our inventory, Earth Team uses Open Tree Map, an online tool and app that allows for easy tree inventory. One of the more useful features of Open Tree Map is that it uses the entered data to calculate environmental benefits of each tree.

To conduct the inventory, students were given maps, iPads, and measuring tapes. Trees planted in Fall 2017 were not recorded on the map yet, so all of the following data needed to be entered: species, GPS location, trunk diameter, and a picture. The interns were able to collect and record the data using the app on the iPads. Trees planted in previous years were already on the map, so all they needed was an update on their diameter and picture.


Overall, the day was fun and informative. Many interns had never done yard work or collected data on trees before. Despite the rain their spirits were kept up as they tended the trees and interacted with nature. Until next time –


Leading A Tree Planting At Wanlass Park


After getting a first taste of all the hard work that goes into tree planting  in October, Richmond High interns stepped up to be leaders at Wanlass for their November tree planting event. Over 20 volunteers showed up, including Alhambra High School’s Earth Team interns and several students from U.C. Berkeley. Although the number of attendees was daunting, the team did a great job of instructing the volunteers and providing support throughout the day.

Our interns kicked off the event with an icebreaker: the human knot! After this fun and close quarters activity, the team instructed the group on proper tree planting procedure. Each person had a different task to cover, from how to dig a hole to the proper way to stake a tree. After they finished planting an example tree, the volunteers were split into several groups and assigned a planting site and tree.

Throughout the day, Richmond High interns did an amazing job walking among the volunteer groups and answering questions, checking work, and providing any needed assistance. They thoroughly enjoyed the chance to work with other Earth Team interns and the college students.


By the end of the day, the volunteers had managed to plant a total of 11 trees! It was a hard day of work complemented by laughter and new connections; and as always, the day was finished off by loads of PIZZA! We hope to use this day as a practice run for a larger community event in the spring: stay tuned!