Aspiring Eagle Scout helps plant a giant willow hut at River HomeLink

Nov. 3, 2022

Parker Zaemann may no longer attend River HomeLink, but the 11th grader will leave behind a lasting legacy at his former school. The aspiring Eagle Scout helped organize a group to plant willow saplings in front of the school that will eventually grow into a living structure large enough for an entire classroom.

Parker Zaermann and Kris Potter

Parker Zaemann (left) and Kris Potter pose next to a living willow hut on the River HomeLink campus

“As far as I know, this is not only the only willow hut on a public school property, it’s the only willow hut big enough to hold a whole classroom,” said Kris Potter, outdoor learning coordinator at the school.

The willow hut and a grape arbor had been something Potter had been wanting to do since before the pandemic as a way to expand the existing outdoor learning space at River created a few years ago. She spotted an opportunity when Parker’s mom, who still has two daughters attending River, started asking around about his Eagle Scout project.

“Mrs. Potter said, ‘We actually have a project here on campus that we would really appreciate some help on,’” said Parker. “I looked at the diagrams and I was like, ‘Yep, this is definitely a good project for me.’”

Reaching the rank of Eagle Scout is a difficult task accomplished by only around 5% of scouts. Doing so requires at least 21 merit badges, several personal references and completion of a volunteer effort that provides a benefit to the community.

“Parker did so much research about the willows and about the grapes, and about how to get everything ready,” Potter said. “He

Willow hut

A living willow hut from the United Kingdom (Photo via Living Willow Lincoln)

just did a phenomenal job there.”

The willow saplings were donated by a former River HomeLink teacher and the rest of the funding came through a grant from the Master Gardener Foundation of Clark County

Potter’s goal was a willow hut large enough to fit an entire classroom. The one planted by Parker and his group of volunteers over a recent rainy weekend contains more than 60 saplings and will eventually grow to be about 10 feet tall and 20 feet in diameter.

“As Scouts, we value nature, we value conservation, and this is adding biodiversity to River HomeLink’s outdoor learning space, and it’s creating a natural environment that students and teachers can appreciate,” Parker said. “Studies have shown that that actually helps increase learning and productivity.”

Willow hut

Over 60 willow saplings will eventually form a living willow hut on the River HomeLink campus

Over the next several years, Potter and her students will slowly weave the willows together. Eventually, the saplings will merge, creating a single living structure.

“It’s just kind of like a nice contribution to my former middle school,” Parker said. “And I just liked the idea of planting something that future generations will benefit from.”

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