Students develop wildlife habitat at school

June 13, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

SMITHSBURG - The hive of activity that surrounds the pond and new trees outside Smithsburg Middle School is proof that students' development of a wildlife habitat already has started to attract life.

Next come the animals, said Chuck Bowler, a volunteer schoolyard habitat consultant for Fairview Outdoor Education Center.

"The idea is to make a place for both nature and people," Bowler said as Smithsburg High School ninth-graders spread rocks around the perimeters of a small wildlife garden outside the middle school.

Helen Wintle, an eighth-grade English teacher who last year guided her class' request of a grant to purchase materials for the creation of the habitat, planned to meet Friday to dedicate the new park.


The last day of school was Tuesday.

What began as an eighth-grade project to clean up a small part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed this year grew into a community service activity that nurtured friendships.

"I don't think it gets better than this. I don't think community service gets better than this because we always have fun when we work," Tiffany Stutz, 15, said as she stood atop a pile of rocks near the habitat where her friends worked.

About 10 students from Wintle's class last year met several times after school and on weekends this spring to plant flowers and trees around the 3-foot-deep pond they dug in the rocky soil on the base of a grassy hill below the high school parking lot.

The plants include Virginia bluebells, irises, lilies, black-eyed Susans, blue-stemmed grasses and ornamental tree species, include dogwood and red maple, Wintle said.

The park was developed in part by donations from parents and business owners, and a grant from Chesapeake Bay Trust, an organization that promotes restoration and protection of the bay and its tributaries.

Wintle said the park will help prevent erosion and provide an area for animals.

"It hopefully will bring animals like frogs, and it will bring the birds, things like that," Wintle said. "If you build it, they will come."

The art class next year is expected to paint a mural depicting life around the Chesapeake Bay on the vinyl siding of the school facing the park, Wintle said.

The students said last week they committed to the project to earn community service hours, which high school students need to graduate, but they have enjoyed being together as a class again.

"Yeah, it's lots of fun," said Craig Trueblood, 14. "We get to see all of our friends again because we don't all have the same classes anymore at the high school. It's nice to have something we did ... we left our mark on the school."

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