Students Continue Stream Restoration Work

SNOW HILL — With a commitment of five acres of tree buffers to be planted by the end of the school year, Snow Hill Middle School (SHMS) Principal Christina Welch gave the Board of Education an update on the Stream Restoration and Forest Revitalization (SRFR) project at the board’s December meeting. So far, about 300 trees have been planted with more scheduled to go into the ground this spring.
Planting began earlier this year and proved incredibly popular with students, according to Welch.
“They were really engaged in the project. In the very beginning of the school year in September, it was very hot and they planted trees like seven Fridays in a row,” she said. “Kids who sometimes struggled with the inside classroom activities loved being part of this. They made little toad houses to go out, they made some bird houses. So it was really an engaging activity that was really good for impacting the community.”
Though things have slowed down for the winter, SRFR is off to a strong start with students having already planted 255 trees at the Worcester Technical High School (WTHS), another 23 trees nearby and 40 trees at SHMS. The plan now is to continue planting in April and May, including trees around Shad Landing, until the five-acre goal is made.
Also to come in the spring, the students who are participating in SRFR will be taking part in Project Citizen, a curriculum program starting in middle school that endeavors to connect students with government. According to the project’s website, it promotes “democratic values and principles, tolerance, and feelings of political efficacy.”
Once completed, the trees should serve as a buffer to catch runoff and filter out pollution before it hits area waterways.
“This year eighth grade students from Snow Hill Middle School planted indigenous trees,” wrote Welch in a memo to the board, “to help reduce the speed of runoff, prevent erosion, and reduce sedimentation of critical streams that eventually drain into the Chesapeake Bay. This multidisciplinary project incorporates science, social studies, language arts, and mathematics.”
A total of $6 million has been set aside by the state to protect waterways through stream restoration. Worcester was able to secure a piece of that funding, which has allowed for students from both schools to connect and participate.
“Worcester County Public Schools was the first educational agency to receive funds as part of the Governor’s Stream Restoration Challenge,” wrote Welch. “This $50,000 grant has provided us with the ability to educate students in a project based learning environment without monetary barriers. Students from multiple schools had the opportunity to work together to plant the trees in a 21st century outdoor learning experience.”
Beyond the obvious benefits in combating runoff, Welch told the board last week that SRFR has been a universally positive experience for all of the students involved. Many of the students had their first introduction to agencies like the state park service as well as the chance to interact with some of their community representatives.
“Additionally, this project also helps fulfill the state graduation requirement of service learning. Service learning improves the view of the community on the schools,” wrote Welch, “and the student’s views of the community. The project created outreach and connections to multiple community partners. The Department of natural Resources, state parks, and local and state dignitaries worked with students to make this project successful.”