ILWACO — On Thursday, Oct. 11, Hilltop Middle School seventh-graders joined forces with the Pacific County Noxious Weed Control Board and the Washington Department of Parks and Recreation to control invasive Scotch broom at Cape Disappointment State Park.

Melissa Nesbitt and Jake Gold, both teachers at Hilltop Middle School, organized the event and enlisted the help of Weed Control Board Coordinator Jeff Nesbitt, who came with tools, supplies, and expertise.

Upon arrival at the park, students assembled at the Cape D amphitheater, where Ranger Bryn Sitkiewicz taught them about the park’s unique ecosystem. They learned about the native plant species that belong there, and the threats that invasive Scotch broom presents to them.

“We have a big problem with Scotch broom in the park,” Sitkiewicz told the students, “and not enough hands to pull it all.”

Students worked in small groups to hand-pull as many Scotch broom plants as they could, making sure to remove the entire plant, roots and all. The plants that were too big to pull were cut down and hauled out. Thousands of Scotch broom plants were removed over the course of a single day.

“This was a cross-curricular project,” said Nesbitt, who teaches social studies. “They are learning about service in social studies and studying disrupted ecosystems with Jake Gold in their science classes.”

The students were enthusiastic to be out of the classroom and were able to make a huge positive impact on the park. At the end of the day, with the Scotch broom piled high, the students returned to the bus with a better understanding of their local ecosystem and with the knowledge that they left the park better than they found it.

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