2019, Woodbridge, Virginia, USA
Lake Ridge Middle School recently underwent an expansion of the school in order to house more students. During this expansion, an outdoor courtyard was created. In 2017-2018, the Ecology Club created a raised vegetable garden to help students experience the growth of food and caring for the Earth. This school year (2018-2019), the club wanted to focus on how to care for our waterways, while still adding to our garden and the biodiversity seen around our school.
The students decided to take trash from the school grounds and dumpsters and turn it into gardening tools and containers. Items bound for landfills and in storm drains can unintentionally make their way to our watershed, the nearby Occoquan River.
The students hope that by taking discarded items and turning them into beautiful plant containers, fencing and a rain barrel they will be able to reduce the amount of trash in the Occoquan, inspire other students and staff to upcycle materials in beneficial ways and increase the number of beneficial plants and insects in our area.
Many of our students are disconnected from nature. In a recent school survey, over 80% of students reported spending less than 15 minutes a day outside. This removal from the outside world impacts how the kids view the Earth and challenges that society faces with environmental issues. The students in the Ecology Club are using this courtyard garden to teach the other students at school about pollution, it’s impact on our water and soil, the importance of pollination and pollinators, biodiversity and where food comes from. It is not a complicated project, but it is profoundly changing how some students will approach their natural world. Their hope is for a cascade effect. They want to clean our local grounds and use that trash to beautify the garden by planting herbs and flowers in it. That it will increase the number of insects and birds in the garden and inspire the humans at school to do the same.