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Students dig Earth Day activity

April 22, 1999

Earth DayBy BRUCE HAMILTON / Staff Writer

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer




BOONSBORO - Ash, oak, maple and pine trees are taking root in a formerly empty field, thanks to a group of muddy sixth-graders.

Cathy Menzter, a Boonsboro Middle School science teacher, spent most of Thursday morning helping her students plant 50 trees and shrubs.

It was an Earth Day activity combined with student service learning, Mentzer said. But the planting also marks the start of a transformation.

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The field between the high school and middle school is a storm water drainage area, but teachers are trying to turn it into an outdoor classroom for environmental education.

Plans for the fenced-off basin include three shallow marsh pools, a wooded area and a wildflower meadow. The project is intended to provide natural habitats and beautify school grounds.

The Department of Soil Conservation provided a $50,000 grant for the first phase, which involves reforestation, excavation and grading.

Mentzer said her students researched various species. They checked each plant's soil, sunlight, space and temperature needs. They plotted out where each tree and shrub would be planted.

The students flagged each location with a small sign. Neil Beard of Tanner Landscaping drilled holes so the students didn't have to dig.

The ground was damp Thursday as four groups of students visited the field in shifts. They matched each plant with its flag, set it in the soil and used shovels to fill in afterward.

"We're helping out and getting dirty," said student Tony McChesney.

The 20 shrubs and 30 trees are all native to the Boonsboro area, according to Mentzer. They include Winterberry, Staghorn Sumac, White Pine, Sugar Maple, White Ash and Red Oak.

The students also celebrated Earth Day in their language arts class. Each day this week, Karla Davis used poetry to teach them about nature. They also wrote to express themselves.

For example, the students picked an object such as a pine cone or squirrel skull and wrote descriptions that they later turned into poems.

Davis included crafts in her classes. The students made marbled paper and ink prints that they will use today to make a book of their poetry, she said.

The first Earth Day was held more than 20 years ago to promote awareness of environmental issues. With poems and plants, Boonsboro students carried on the tradition Thursday.

Asked what the event meant to them, some sixth-graders simply shrugged. Not polluting or littering, others said. "Saving the Earth," said Jessica Washko.

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