by Lisa Tome
Claire McArthur can't go to Chesapeake City's Ferry Slip Park without feeling a great sense of pride.
McArthur, a ninth grader at Bohemia Manor High School, was one of a group of students that made major improvements in the park as part of her environmental science classwork.
"I like the fact that we helped the community and the environment. We give people something nice to look at and benefit the environment," said McArthur.
Plantings, rain barrels, and major park work were done in Chesapeake City by the students. Rain barrels have been placed near the town hall and in Pell Gardens. "We planted a buffer zone and native plans. We learned respect for the environment," said McArthur. "I told my parents that I got to spruce up the place." Aaron Kostecki teaches environmental science at Perryville High. The students at that school worked in two locations at Perryville Community Park - near the park entrance and at Stump's Point. They planted plants, trees, and shrubs to help prevent erosion. They also installed bat boxes. Bats will eat up to 1,200 mosquitos in an hour. Kostecki explained the reaction of students to the work.
"It's huge for them to do this. It's a big opportunity and they were excited," said Kostecki. He also said that he got to see a different side of his students. "Kids who you don't think would want to are out there planting trees," he said. "I know a couple students, specifically, that for them this helped build pride in the community."
Mary Nickerson teaches environmental science at North East High. That school's projects in North East Community Park coincided with some of the coldest weather of the year. "We planted native species during freezing and windy conditions," said Nickerson.
In all, more than 900 ninth grade students enrolled in Environmental Science classes in the public schools, turned education into action over the course of the school year.
All five public high schools participated planting hundreds of trees, shrubs, and perennials, hauled and spread mulch, cut back invasive species, and built bat and birdhouses.
An expo showing off their work was held last week at the Elkton Central Library.
This expo was the culmination of a year long project conducted by the Fair Hill Nature Center with funding provided by the Environmental Protection Agency and administered by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. During the fall and winter, students learned about water quality issues regarding local waterways and the bay. They tested streams and researched water quality solutions.
The next step was implementing the projects. The final step was the expo.
"Fair Hill Nature Center did a great job with this. I'm looking forward to working with them again," said Nickerson.