Frederick, MD (November 18, 2009)- Two hundred trees will one day tower over students at Middletown High School, thanks to the efforts of Sharon Steger’s biology students. Steger’s students have been learning about the real world, the world of trees and land and air and water. In October, they planted 70 trees as part of the Schoolyard Habitat project. Last year, students planted 130 trees.
It’s part of Frederick County Public Schools’ plan to increase its tree canopy to 20 percent of school land by 2038. Middletown High School adjoins a farm. The Schoolyard Habitat program at the school goes beyond tree canopy, however. “We are writing a grant with the Chesapeake Bay Trust to help us with a meadow,” Steger said.
Plans call for a pollinator garden and a hummingbird garden, bird boxes and hummingbird feeders. Steger is working on the project with Scott Bean, biology and environmental science teacher, Maria Duba, chemistry and biology teacher, and Sarah Shriner, forestry teacher.
Middletown High School is on a 70-acre campus that includes the local middle school and upper elementary school. The high school itself sits on about 30 acres. The Schoolyard Habitat program started as a way to convert some of the large, open areas that surround schools into environmental classrooms to provide a way to educate students about the outdoors, and provide habitat for species that can be studied in the classroom.
In the meantime, students learn how environmental projects on their school property can benefit health of local streams, as well as the Chesapeake Bay. “It looks desolate,” said sophomore Gary Higginbothem, as he toured the future forest with fellow students Nick Riley and Savannah Hargett. “It will add to the landscape.”
The three said planting the trees helped them realize there’s more to biology than cells and DNA. Zach Lilley, another of Steger’s students, said the tree planting will one day mean cleaner air and water. The trees emit oxygen and soak up carbon dioxide, both of which help clean the air, he said.
“I think a bunch of people planting will make a difference,” he said. “It felt good to get out and help the environment, and be eco-friendly,” said student Cassie Poindexter. Students hoped the trees and meadow will make the school an oasis, even as Middletown becomes more populated. “I remember when Glenbrook used to be farmland,” Brianna Scott said. Others had their own recollections. “It’s not good old Middletown anymore,” Poindexter said. “It’s prettier driving here than in Frederick .” “My mom remembers when this was all farms,” Connor Procter said.
Steger also took students to the Monocacy National Battlefield to test the health of the Monocacy River, and to learn that any outdoor area is home to more organisms than they could imagine. The students donned waders and walked into the water, and Steger hoped that they would never look at a river or a forest the same way once they came out. For Cori Shiflet, one of 25 students who waded out, it was an eye-opening experience. “I never realized how many animals and how many organisms there are,” she said. “I love to go out and enjoy nature and marvel at God’s creation.”
Randiiee Weadon, a recent transfer from Frederick High, said she loved the chance to learn about both the environment and the history of the area. “That was the funnest thing I’ve ever done in science,” she said.
Frederick News Post- Middletown students add 200 trees to habitat for schoolyard project Middletown