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ITHACA, NY – On a chilly April afternoon, LACS students grab shovels, spades, cardboard and a wheelbarrow and head outside.
Some scoop mulch, while others begin transplanting bulbs and laying cardboard at the front of the building, preparing to plant shrubs where weeds once overtook the garden. A few students empty compost buckets and check on the protective barriers of mulch and ground cover they placed around recently planted trees.
The students are part of the LACS Green Thumb Committee, which received an IPEI Teacher Grant this year to purchase equipment and reforest the land around the school.
Throughout the year, local horticulturist and LACS neighbor Pamela Markham has been teaching students about plant growth and helping them weed, remove invasive species, and prep the grounds for new native plants and trees.
“Using the gardening tools purchased through an IPEI grant, students have become a focused, hardworking team as they dig to prep sites and plant young trees and flowers with our new spades and spading forks, and as they regularly transport wood chips to protect the young growth, using our new wheelbarrow,” said English teacher Sarah Bokaer who leads the committee.
“It is gratifying to watch how they have coalesced as a group by working together, and they are learning skills and understandings about native plants and gardening skills from Pamela which they can use all their lives.”
Students in the committee are from multiple grade levels and backgrounds but share an interest in gardening and plants. The group meets twice per week and has several mantras under which they work, Bokaer said. A favorite is “leave it better than it was before.”
The committee’s projects have benefited the school’s greater community by maintaining indoor and outdoor plantings as well as increasing student knowledge of horticulture.
IPEI Teacher Grants are awards up to $1500 for projects that fund teacher’s great ideas involving community partners and aligning with NYS Learning Standards.
IPEI is a not-for-profit organization that connects the Ithaca City School District and the community through collaboration, engagement, gifts and grants. For more information, see www.ipei.org or contact 256-IPEI (4734) or firstname.lastname@example.org.