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When students at the Psagot School on Kibbutz Yiron realized that a plant known as the creeping cinquefoil (hamshan zohel in Hebrew) was on the brink of disappearing from their area around their Upper Galilee homes, they mobilized to rescue it. Recently, after a year of efforts to return the rare plant to nature, the students and their parents celebrated their retoring of the creeping cinquefoil to the nearby Pa'ar cave.

The creeping cinquefoil rescue effort is one of many campaigns undertaken as part of the River Guardians project, in which 15 Upper Galilee schools are partners. Students of the Mevo Galil school worked, among other things, to rehabilitate the river that flows in a wadi through Kibbutz Ayelet Hashahar; students at the Hanadiv School in Metulla prepared and posted signs in the Iyun River reserve with explanations about the river and local flora; Ramat Korazim students installed benches in Ein Tina for the enjoyment of hikers; and more. The Upper Galilee and Mevo'ot Hermon regional councils are working with the project, and teams of guides come from the Israel Nature and National Parks Authority (INNPA), the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and the Jewish National Fund.

For the fourth year, Psagot students adopted the Dishon River near their homes, and among other things checked the extent of the risk taken by animals who must cross the main road that runs over the river. To do so, they spread sand under the road bridge and by inspecting tracks left in the sand, established which animals had passed through.

Facing extinction

During the course of their environmental studies, they realized that a plant in the area called creeping cinquefoil has become increasingly rare in recent years. This plant - which is facing extinction in Israel - grows alongside natural springs and along the edges of water channels in damp soil. In the Galilee it is seen only near the Pa'ar Cave. According to Ariella Erez, director of the INNPA's guidance center in the Upper Galilee, "because of its rarity, the students decided on their own to expand the creeping cinquefoil's population, and together we decided to revive this plant in another location, not far from the cave."

During the year, the students learned about the plant, became familiar with it and its habitat, and worked out how to implement its restoration in the wild. "We extracted several cinquefoils from nature," explains Erez, "and transferred them to a hothouse where the students germinated, watered and raised the plants. After the plants became strong, they uprooted them and transferred them to a small plot within the Pa'ar Cave nature reserve, where the plant was first absorbed. It creeps and sends out shoots, and enlarges its spread. At this stage, everything was ready for its return to the wild: The students came to the place together with their parents, prepared furrows and replanted the cinquefoils."

According to Erez, "the power of this activity, as with other projects carried out by the other schools, is the students' contribution not only by talking, but also by doing. They toiled, planted, germinated and participated in the entire process of returning something to the wild. An INNPA ranger could also have done this, but the students' effort strengthened their sense of connection and commitment to the environment in which they live. They understood that there is a return on what they are doing - it gives them a feeling that it is possible to effect change." The River Guardians project coordinator, Tal Shlomi, added: "as we progress with the program, the number of children involved increases and the circle of friends of the rivers grows. We live in a community committed to protecting the natural resources found near our homes, for us and for all the millions of people who visit the rivers every year."