Patwin Elementary School
Back in the town of Davis, there was a school called Patwin Elementary. The school was a special school for two reasons. First, the school was named for and stood by the burial grounds of the Patwin Indians. Second, the students at Patwin were the guardians of a nearby pond called West Davis Pond. As guardians of the pond Patwin students had the job of protecting and preserving the wildlife habitat area. The children at Patwin school pulled weeds and picked up trash in the pond area.
Being in Flo's class was the most entertaining of all for the lucky students in her class. If you got Flo for a teacher, at first you would definitely think that you would want a different teacher, but, after just one day of hearing her talk about what you were going to do during the year, unless you were having a nervous breakdown, you'd change your mind.
You see, Flo was not your ordinary 4th grade teacher; if you saw Flo, you could say that you had seen everything (and it would be true). Flo would bring her standard poodle, Sally, to school every day. She was a loving and gentle dog on one side and on the other, she was a wild and springy puppy. Flo would let her kids walk with her over to a park on some of the lunch recesses just for fun.
Flo had a lot of her own things in her classroom that the students were free to use and play with after they had finished with all their work. She gave a lot of herself to her class. She involved her students in the community by making projects and taking them on field trips. If her kids were well-behaved and they followed directions, sometimes Flo would put chocolate on their desk and say that the chocolate fairy came! Basically, Flo made learning fun.
One day, when Flo's class was pulling weeds and picking up trash at West Davis Pond, they saw some birds and animals. But one thing was wrong; there was not the same amount of birds and animals as the last time. One girl, named Julie, noticed this and told her friend Amber. Amber said that the birds just reproduced and that there was nothing to worry about.
"But it's not just the birds; it's the fish, too! There are fewer of almost everything!" Julie said. Hearing this, Amber stopped pulling weeds and looked around and said, "You're right! There are fewer!"
"That is what I have been trying to tell you the last two minutes!" Julie exclaimed.
They walked around and saw things that were just unbelievable. They saw smashed plants and a few dead birds and animals on the ground. There were dead fish floating on their sides in the water. There was black sticky stuff on some of the dead creatures. When Julie saw this, she almost fainted.
They told the rest of the class what they had seen. Then, on the way back, they saw some footprints. There were two pairs of footprints; one seemed to be from a small pair of flat shoes, like tennis shoes, and the other looked like it was made from a pair of big long-toed boots, like cowboy boots; and the footprints were leading straight to the pond!
The next Tuesday, Flo's class returned to the pond to pull weeds and pick up trash again. The kids saw even fewer animals than the week before. This time it was stranger; the birds and animals were everywhere except in the southwest area. There was also a film of greasy foam that was floating on the water's surface.
The students were all thinking the same thing, "Why were all these things happening? Were people coming into the pond?" They were going to have to find out if people were taking birds and animals away. They were going to have to think of a way to find out all the answers to all these questions. But the biggest question of all was, "How?"
The class was exploring in groups of two and picking up trash and pulling weeds. Todd and Phil were pulling up a ton of weeds in the same place when they saw some footprints leading towards the southwest area of the pond. Todd started off himself to follow them, but Phil stopped him. Then, together they walked along the water following the tracks. Then the prints just stopped right at the edge of the water!
Todd was disappointed and started back, but he didn't walk far when he heard Phil yelling for help. Todd ran back to the water's edge and saw Phil holding one hand to a big branch of a bush. He was chest deep in a big pit with black sticky stuff all around it! Todd quickly pulled him out. Then Phil said, "Todd, there's a ton of tar-like stuff in there! It's really deep, too! I could have died!" He took a deep breath and continued, "But look, I found this!" He pulled out a billfold. They both ran back to tell the others what they found.
When the class heard their story, they started to ask questions. One girl named Amy said, "Tina and I found footprints too, and they were headed the same way, to the southwest corner!"
Phil took out the billfold. On the outside of the billfold were the initials "A.W." "A.W., I wonder what that stands for?" questioned Andrew.
Phil pulled out several old receipts. But there was nothing to identify the owner. "The rest of the billfold is empty," said Phil, "just some old receipts."
"Hey, Phil, let me see those!" said Julia. When Julia looked at the receipts, she said, "Hey, you guys, these are receipts from an equipment warehouse in Sacramento!"
The receipts listed several items including: 100 feet of hose, a drilling platform, diamond drill bits, a compression tank, well casing, and explosives!
"Well, something is sure going on!" said Amy. "Let's go back and try to figure this out!"
At recess that Friday, the students in Flo's class met at the edge of the playground and talked about the strange things that were going on at the pond. Megan S. said, "Let's all meet at my house for a sleep over and talk about it." "Maybe we can sneak out and go to the pond?" Emily asked eagerly.
"Tell your parents that my mom will take care of everything and that we will be fine," said Megan S.
Then all of the boys, led by Alex, yelled, "No way!"
Then Megan S. said, "Come on you guys, just one night won't hurt you, and besides, there will be other boys."
"Well OK, girls..." they said.
Megan S. went to the office to call her mom at work. She asked if her classmates could sleep-over that night because they had to work on a class project and they had to work on it during their own time. Her mom said, "Yes," hesitantly, and added, "as long as you promise to go to bed by 10 pm and clean up any messes you make."
Then, that night when they met at Megan's house, they talked about the pond.
Grace said, "I think that somebody is deliberately trying to kill all the wildlife in the pond."
Emily said, "Well, I think that somebody is digging for a buried treasure, maybe an old burial site from the Patwin Indians!" Others hypothesized all sorts of ideas about what might be going on. Then Derrick said, "Let's stop saying what we think, and start adding up the clues we've found so far."
"Well, we know someone is buying a lot of drilling equipment," pointed out Andrew, "and their initials might be A.W."
"And, we know there's pollution in the pond and that a lot of animals and plants have been destroyed," said Meghan C.
"What about those pits, like the one that I fell into!" exclaimed Phil. They talked for quite a while, but couldn't come up with any answers.
Later on, Denise, Megan's mom, said, "Time for bed, children!" Much to her surprise, all the kids were asleep (or so she thought) in a few minutes. But, they had just pretended to go to sleep!
When Denise was asleep, they walked to the door and went out into the street. Then Meghan C. and Tim D. led the way to the pond. They were careful to stay together and were very quiet. The kids were looking at the pond from just outside of the fence by the viewing platform, just to be safe.
All of the sudden, Leana said in a low voice, "Be quiet, I hear something! it sounds like voices coming from the pond!"
They listened and they could hear voices, but they couldn't make out the words. Then they heard some funny noises that sort of sounded like rumbling vibrations. Jacob said, "Hey look, there are flashlights coming from over there!" The kids looked over where Jacob was pointing and saw two beams of light.
Then, as loud as could be, Matt sneezed, "Ha Chooo!" The two lights immediately went out. By the light of the street lamps, the kids could see two silhouettes. It looked like a man and a woman running to a van that the kids hadn't noticed there before.
Later that weekend, at Serg's house, Serg was playing with Alisha and Kristian in a game of pogo. Serg said, "Hey look, see that man over there wearing boots? He is dumping oil in the gutter!"
As guardians of the pond, the kids knew that the gutter and drains were for storm water only. In fact, there were signs painted on the sidewalks stating "Protect Our Wetlands, Storm Water Only." They had been painted all over the city of Davis by some Senior Girl Scouts to remind people not to put harmful waste in the gutters since they drained directly into the pond.
Alisha asked where the phone was as Kristian asked, "Why the heck do you want the phone?" Alisha just said that she needed to call someone. Serg showed her where the phone was located. Alisha called the police (not 911) and told them that there was a man putting oil in the gutter.
When the police car pulled up, one officer got out. She went up to the man and said, "These kids said that you were putting oil in the gutter." She then asked him if he was aware that this could harm the nearby pond and wildlife. The man scowled at the kids and said that he didn't put a thing in the gutter. The officer asked what the man's name was. He said, "Al Wolf." She asked if anyone else lived at this house. He answered, "No!" in a gruff voice.
Then, after hearing both sides of the argument, the officer said, "I believe that the kids are right, and with them as witnesses, I am forced to give you a ticket." The man took the ticket and stuffed it in his pocket. The kids went inside and talked about the man.
Alisha pointed out that he had the same kind of cowboy boots as the footprints they had seen at the pond. Kristian noticed that the boots were covered with black mud. "And, I saw some kind of oil gear in the trunk of his car!" added Serg. Alisha said thoughtfully, "I guess he could work in a muddy oil field...and a lot of people have cowboy boots." She went on, "Besides, we saw two pairs of footprints over at the pond, and only one person lives at the house the officer investigated, remember?"
"Well, I think we should still tell the rest of the class about this," Serg pointed out. The others agreed. After all, they were guardians of the pond!
Monday morning at recess, Serg, Kristian and Alisha told the class about the man named Al Wolf who was dumping oil into the gutter. They explained about the muddy boots and the equipment in the car.
"Well, muddy boots don't mean that the person, well, I mean Al Wolf was the person, that did the bad things at the pond," said Emily.
"But what about the drilling equipment? We found receipts that were from drilling equipment! The initials on the billfold were A.W.! A. W. could mean Al Wolf! It could have been his, and he could have bought them!" retorted Tim C.
"They were the same kind of shoes as the prints that we saw in the pond, big-toed cowboy boots," said Todd.
"Well, we can't be sure, but until we find out, let's put him down as a suspect," said Megan S.
"Is that OK, Emily?" asked her friend Amber.
"Well, OK," said Emily, "but don't bet on it!"
After recess, they went to the pond to pull weeds. Flo said that she had to go back to the classroom, so she left a UCD student teacher, named Jenny, in charge. Some of the kids distracted Jenny while the rest of the kids went along the water's edge.
Rebecca said, "Hey you guys, there are big pits in the ground!" The others looked where she was pointing. There was a black sticky substance all around the outer rim of the pits. "Be careful! They're just like the one that I fell in last week that Todd had to pull me out of!" exclaimed Phil.
Phil took out a plastic baggie from his pocket and took some of the black substance. Then Heather bent down and pulled out a piece of paper. She unfolded it. "It's a map of the pond!" she exclaimed. The kids all looked at it. The southwest area was circled. It read: "To: K. J. From: A. W."
She stopped. "A. W...Hey, I wonder if A. W. is Al Wolf, the man the police officer gave the ticket to!" Serg said. Then she continued, "Meet me Tu 11 p s/w."
"What the heck does that mean?" asked Joseph.
"Well, I guess that we will just have to find out," said Tim C.
Before class the next day, the kids met at the corner of the playground to talk about the pond and the strange things that were happening. They were talking about the map that they found and all looked at it with puzzled faces. Then, in an excited voice, Derrick practically yelled, "I've got it!" Then he continued, "The 'Tu' means Tuesday! The '11p' means eleven o'clock pm! And the 's/w' means southwest!"
The rest of the class was silent as they looked at the map and thought about it. Then, they all decided that this just might be true. But what should they do about it?
Then Phil remembered that he had taken a sample of the black substance from the pond. He took it out of his pocket and reminded the class that he had it. Grace offered to bring it to the science room and ask Mrs. Miller, their science teacher, what it was. Mike said that was a wonderful idea.
When she came to the science lab, she handed the baggie to Mrs. Miller and asked her what it was. Mrs. Miller looked at the material. After examining it, she said, "This is unrefined petroleum! Where did you find it?"
Grace mumbled something about a trash can, quickly thanked Mrs. Miller, and rushed back to the playground.
When she got to the playground she was out of breath. The students were already going back to the classroom because recess was over. She ran back to the classroom as fast as she could, and before Flo got there, quickly told the class what Mrs. Miller had said.
It was Tuesday, the day Flo's class went to the pond each week to work pulling weeds and clearing trash. At the pond, ten kids were pulling weeds while ten were sneaking out to the southwest area of the pond with the camera. Meanwhile, the other nine kids were talking to Flo. They distracted her with questions about the pond and some Hershey chocolate kisses! Flo was a strong woman, but not when it came to chocolate!
"Why did they make the island in the middle of the pond?" inquired Emily. Flo answered, in between bites of chocolate, that it protected the birds from predators like cats.
"Why aren't there any trees?" asked Mike. This question stumped Flo. The chocolate kisses were disappearing quickly! The kids were running out of ideas to keep Flo distracted. They sure hoped that the others would return soon!
When the camera was hidden safely in the bushes, Jacob, the class camera person, set the clock to start at 10:45 pm and stop at 3:00 am. The students looked at the hidden camera from different directions to make sure that it was not visible. Then they hurried back just in time. Flo had just finished talking and had one more bite of chocolate left, which was gone in less than a second!
On the way back to school, the class talked about the camera and what they might find out. Julia said, "I hope that Derrick was right and we get something on tape." Jacob said, "We'd better because my mom is going to want her camera back!"
"Well, there's only one way to find out," said Tim D., in a smart voice.
The next day was Wednesday, and the class did not usually go to the pond that day. But, they had convinced Flo that there was some trash that they had forgotten, and that they should go there to get rid of it. Some of the kids went with Jacob to the area where the camera had been hidden to get it.
The others either distracted Flo or picked up trash that they had stowed behind some bushes the day before. Soon, Flo saw a big pile of trash and didn't get suspicious about a thing! She said, "I can't believe there is so much trash! I guess it is a good thing we came back."
At the southwest area of the pond, Jacob looked inside the viewer of the camera and said, "Well, we got something on here. I just hope that it is what we want." They returned quickly back to where the rest of the class was, but not quick enough! They found out that they were a little late, and Flo was looking for them!
When she saw them, Flo was a little irritated. She asked where they had been. They said they were just behind a bush with a ton of trash. While they were explaining, Jacob sneaked away to Emily and gave her the camera to put in her back pack. They apologized for coming back late. "I guess we lost track of time, Flo," said Garret, "we will be more responsible next time, we promise." They all walked back to class in silence. They knew that it had been a close call.
After lunch, Megan S. bravely asked Flo to leave the room for a half hour because students had to work on a project. She said that they would share it with her after they finished. Flo agreed hesitantly, and with a puzzled look on her face, said, "I trust all of my students to make responsible choices and be truthful."
As she left, all of the students felt a little guilty. Jacob quickly set up the video while Andrew turned on the TV and pressed "Play." They all watched in silence.
As the kids sat at their desks watching the TV, they saw absolutely nothing for a few minutes. Andrew pressed "Fast Forward." It was very dark, but they could see a van pull up to the edge of the pond. On the side of the car it read "AL WOLF & KATIE JONES MINERAL DEVELOPMENT CO"! They couldn't see the license plate.
Then, two people got out and unloaded some equipment from the car. They walked over to the fenced area and, with a key, opened a gate and went directly to the area with the pits. Then they started to drill in the pits. It looked like they put something from the pits in a big tub and carried it back to the van.
There was noise from wind in the bushes, but they could make out some conversation. The wind stopped for a brief second, and they heard the woman say, "We're going to strike it rich!" Then they heard the man say that they were going to meet at the same place and time on Thursday. The two people put all of the equipment in the van and left.
Andrew turned off the TV and Jacob put the camera in his desk to take home. They gave the tape to Megan S. for safe keeping. They discussed what they should do next. "We've got to meet at the pond this Thursday night at 10:30 pm sharp at the southwest viewing platform," said Megan S. They all agreed. Flo had just walked back in the classroom. They all quickly said good-bye to Flo, because it was already time for class to end.
The next night, at exactly 10:30 pm, the kids all met at the southwestviewing deck at the pond. Megan S. was already there. Chris said, "If you are planning on confronting them by yourself, then you are crazy!"
"I'm not crazy, and if you must know, I am not planning on confronting them by myself," Megan S. explained, "come on out you guys!" As she said that, three police officers came out of the bushes.
Then Megan S. explained, "We will all need to hide in the bushes over there," she pointed to some thick brush. She continued, "After they get here we must wait until they start drilling. Then, we will all come out on my signal and confront them. The police officers will back us up. They will come out and arrest them on the spot, because I already gave them the tape and the baggie of petroleum, and explained about the things we saw."
"So, what's the signal?" asked Julie. "I will flash my light on that fence post," Megan S. said, pointing to the post. "It is behind the bushes, so Wolf and Jones won't be able to see it, but you all will," she said. "Now, let's hurry up and hide!"
They all got behind the bushes to wait. The van finally pulled up to a stop at 11:05. The two people silently unloaded equipment, and went to the same area they were at on Tuesday night.
As they were setting up, Al Wolf said, "Did I tell you I got a ticket last weekend? Some tattle-tale brats called the police on me when I was dumping off the water from our last oil sample in the gutter!" They began drilling, and he went on, "These punks think they are some sort of 'guardians of the pond'."
Then Alisha, after seeing Megan's light flash on the fence post, came out and boldly said, "Well, we are the guardians of this pond!"
Then Megan S. said, "We know what you are doing and you must stop. This is a wildlife preserve and as guardians of the pond we must ask you to stop!"
"How do you kids even know what we're doing?" asked the woman named Katie Jones. "We know that you are drilling for oil and trying to develop an oil field right here in this wildlife preserve," said Amber. Todd added, "We have proof on video tape! This is destroying wildlife and we are going to stop you!"
"And just how are you going to do that?" asked the man in a daring voice.
"Like this!" said Chris in a loud clear voice. The three police officers came out from behind the bushes. Two officers hand-cuffed the man and woman as the third officer opened the back door of the police car that was on the street near the pond.
She called on her portable radio, "This is Officer Kenney, we have the suspects. We are on our way to the station to book them! Over and out."
As the officers put the suspects in the back of the car, the kids saw the man and woman make nasty and mean faces at them.
"Well, I can't wait until I find out how this all ends," Phil said.
"Me neither," said Todd. "Me neither!" chorused the rest of the class.
"But now we had better get home before our parents get suspicious!" said Meghan C.
The next day, Flo's class came to the classroom and started to set up for school. When school started, Flo went up to the front of the room and said, "I heard that you solved a mystery and saved the pond! I brought in a newspaper article from the Sacramento Bee about it. This is what it says:"
The students of Flo's class, at Patwin Elementary School saved the West Davis Pond from being destroyed by two developers named Al Wolf and Katie Jones. All students at Patwin Elementary School have been designated as Guardians of the wildlife preserve area called West Davis Pond that is located nearby the school.
Students help the preserve in many ways including clearing the area of weeds and trash on a regular basis, and educating their neighbors about pollution in the storm drains. As Guardians of the Pond, they are responsible for reporting to the Davis Police any individual who may be causing pollution in the area.
Flo Grossenbacher's class of fourth graders has taken a special interest in the wildlife area. They discovered two individuals who were exploiting the resources of the pond. Al Wolf and Katie Jones, two local developers, had been hoping to develop a profitable oil field in the area which would have destroyed the wildlife preserve. Some of their initial surveying and drilling have already caused some damage to the habitat and death of wildlife; however, Flo's class, along with the other students at Patwin, are already working hard to clean it up.
Flo Grossenbacher and her class have been awarded a Certificate of Merit from the City of Davis for their efforts with the West Davis Pond.'
"My class is really very extraordinary," said Flo, "they have solved this mystery all on their own. They are very creative, independent, and responsible young pupils. This award goes to them not me."