Rockin’ at Trask River High School

A teacher at OYA’s Tillamook facilities shares a simple yet rewarding hobby with students.

Written by: Cris Roberts, Trask River High School Adult Agriculture Career Coordinator.

My personal fascination with rocks began as a small girl when I would sort through the varied and marvelous stones tossed onto an isolated beach shore in my aunt’s small town of Depoe Bay, Oregon. Grown up now, I have had the privilege of indulging the Trask River High School students I work with in collecting from the river rock and gravel pit rock we have had delivered at Tillamook Youth Correctional Facility. This rock, some of which is already rounded and somewhat smooth, has been used for filling in numerous French-drain ditches in our garden. 

One recent drain ditch project required unearthing and washing all the filler rock that had been used previously in an old failed drain. The option existed to purchase new rock for our use, but I chose instead to have the youth wash the old rock using a combination of screens. We covered the perforated drain pipe first with a “sleeve”, then with medium-sized rock, then with three-quarter-inch gravel, and finally with finer quarter-inch gravel. 

While this project proved VERY slow, very dirty, and very heavy, some of my goals were to use on-site materials, get in some healthy exercise, save some funds, and help the youth notice the varied rock with which we were working. 

The more we worked, the more hidden gems we found in that muddy rock. School funds permitted us to purchase a sturdy double-barrel rock tumbler.

And we were off and rockin’ after that. 

The youth have gained a sense of pride at a hard job well done. They’ve also learned to look closely at what they are walking by and to envision possibilities for every obscure piece of rock they find. It hasn’t taken great imagination to see some of the applications between these beautiful rocks and the treasures we have in our youth at Trask. Such a simple project, really, yet it has afforded us a look into nature and life that exemplifies some of our most important work here at our school. We are in the business of education and reformation here at our Oregon Youth Authority facility. Daily we get to encounter, and contribute to, these young-man-gems in the rough. We are the lucky ones.

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