By Caroline Boras
Fifth-graders at Madison’s Trust Elementary are rolling up their sleeves to restore habitats on their campus.
At the start of the school year, the students learned about the negative effects of their school’s construction and began researching ways they can help reverse some of the damage. After months of research and planning, the students were able to see their vision of habitat reclamation come alive.
“We’re restoring the habitat that was destroyed when the school was built,” explained student Collin.
The students took to the fields around their school this week to do just that.
They planted native species of plants, like honeysuckle, to encourage bees, butterflies and birds to return to the school’s campus. They set up two birdfeeders and birdbaths, as food and water sources, and a birdhouse designed to attract purple martin. Fifth-grade teacher Amanda Brown said the students picked this bird species because it eats a lot of insects and would be beneficial to have close to their play area.
“They’ve done this whole project themselves, aside from us doing the actual ordering,” Brown said. “It’s pretty impressive, what they’ve come up with.”
Brown said the students raised money to buy all of the plants and supplies, which they picked out based on their research.
With teachers and volunteers supervising, the students got to work Wednesday. Those who weren’t planting or setting up feeders either picked up trash or worked on designing the nature trail and scoping out locations for the outdoor classroom.
“We’re the design team,” student Lailee explained. “We’re trying to build a nature trail for classes next year and the year after that.”
“And we want a reserved area, so if people want to go outside—have class outside on a nice day—they can have a reserved area where they can sit down and the teachers can teach them outside,” Samhita, who also serves on the design team, added.
The project helped the students learn about the environment, and it allowed them to apply problem-solving skills.
Fifth-grade teacher Jacqueline Buchan’s group worked to plant a magnolia tree. When they had challenges digging through the clay, she encouraged them to regroup and talk through ideas to come up with the best way to press forward.
“This project just brings a great energy to the environment,” she said.
The students said they’re excited to leave the habitat restoration project as their legacy.
“It’s been challenging, since most of the work has been on us,” said student Daniyal. “But it’s been really fun.”
Brown said the plan is to maintain and expand the students’ work in future school years. She also said the students have expressed interest in launching a similar project at Brambleton Middle School, where they will attend this fall.
“We as humans have both negative impact on the environment with the choices we make, but we can also have a positive impact,” Brown said. “It only takes one choice to make a positive impact.”
Caroline Boras is an intern for Loudoun Now. She’s studying journalism and Russian studies at Washington & Lee University.