All students at Kesling Middle School participated from two to four times in an Outdoor Education Project this year. The project was designed by students in the 8 Gold science classes in 2009, to provide protection from the elements for our school through the use of landscaping for shade & windbreaks. Although originally designed to be a 12-phase project over many years, we were able to obtain grants to supplement the money raised by students, and this made it possible to complete the project this school year. Through a $25,000 grant from Alcoa-Howmet, a $5000 grant from Lowe’s and some Service-Learning grants, we were able to accomplish the remaining phases in a massive effort involving all students, staff & many community partners. Our three local garden clubs donated plants & supervisory help, and our 8th grade students & their Science teacher were assisted in planning by two local landscape architects.
Over a four-day period in October of 2011 and a six-day period in May of 2012, we were able to plant 279 trees, 102 bushes, 2,560 pachysandra plants, and over 1,800 bulbs & other perennials. In addition, the trails that connect our campus to Kesling Park were bark chipped, and all of the planting beds were weeded and mulched.
This project was just the latest in a 34-year effort to beautify and otherwise improve the campus & the park that surrounds it. Twice every year, students and staff have planted trees, bushes & other plants, and also maintained the previous plantings and the trails. These efforts have transformed what was a barren field into a lush green campus and park. The students at Kesling have been responsible, over that time period, for planting over 5,000 windbreak trees and 200 shade trees. They have been involved in planting many bulbs & flowers on school and park property, and developing a park nursery.
Students who were involved in the early stages of the 34-year program have returned to assist their own students and have expressed amazement and pride over what has been accomplished. This program exemplifies what can be done through community involvement, service-learning, and youth leadership.