School’s 2nd service day cleans up for fall
By Casey Hans
A crisp morning beckoned and Community High School answered the call, big time.
The entire student body and some 24 faculty members fanned out around the city on Oct. 6 working with the City of Ann Arbor Natural Area Preservation Division to clean up in 10 area parks – clearing brush, cutting out invasive species and laying wood chips. Some 360 students volunteered a total of 960 hours.
Organizer and Community High teacher Marci Tuzinsky said partnering with the city this fall has allowed Community students to make a noticeable impact in a short time. “This was the largest work day (the Natural Area Preservation) has ever organized,” she said.
The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority also contributed, offering bus vouchers to allow students to get to the various sites easily.
For the Community Service Work Day students organized into their school Forum groups, which are small communities students spend all four years in while enrolled at Community. The groups become like a family to students and allow them to bond both in school and for service projects, said teacher Anne Thomas, whose Forum group was working at the Leslie Science and Nature Center.
There, students worked in a prairie area clearing paths in preparation for a Halloween event – some created the pathways while others used loppers to trim back brush.
The school’s Forum Council first discussed doing an all-school event on an early release day last spring, when students tackled invasive garlic mustard at city parks and also worked at some elementary schools for the inaugural effort. Sophomore Rianna Johnson-Levy participated in the effort. “I was part of the garlic mustard contingent,” she said. “It was intense. They showed us the plant and it was the whole forest – it was a lot of work.”
Teacher Kevin McGraw, working at a Leslie Woods site this fall, said the inaugural spring event “was such a school wide success, we put it in the hands of the park agency. We’re feeling blessed.”
Also working at Leslie Woods was teacher Craig Levin, who said students were ready for a second challenge. “After last spring, they were begging to do it again,” he said.
Students at Leslie Woods wielded saws and a lot of elbow grease as they took down Autumn Olive, buckthorn and honeysuckle plants during last week’s fall cleanup. Jason Frenzel, volunteer and outreach coordinator for Ann Arbor Natural Area Preservation said the city was pleased to partner with the Ann Arbor high school. “Community’s been really fun to work with,” he said. “They’re really getting a lot done here.”
Frenzel said after the brush is cut, city staff will come back and herbicide the stumps and allow the native prairie plants to begin growing back through the dead wood before doing a controlled burn in the area to reinvigorate the land. He said the city relies on many volunteer groups to help keep the city’s parks in shape.
Working at the Leslie Science and Nature Center, senior Christine Hagan said it makes more sense for the school to do a service project on the early release day instead of trying to attend condensed classes when it is hard to accomplish anything academically. “I feel we are doing more to help here,” she said.
In addition to Leslie Woods and the Leslie Science and Nature Center, Community High students and staff also worked at these other sites last week: Bird Hills Nature Area, Black Pond Woods, Bluffs Nature Area, Cedar Bend Nature Area, Dolph Park, Gallup Park, Kuebler Langford Nature Area and Mary Beth Doyle Park. Students also worked at Greenview, which the city helps to manage with the school district and neighborhood volunteers.
NAP also coordinated with a number of other local organizations that loaned tools and referred additional volunteer leaders to help. These included the Stewardship Network, Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum, Legacy Land Conservancy, the Friends of Greenview Nature Area, the Conservation Stewards Program and the AATA. The city’s Forestry and Park Operations also participated.
In addition to the 900-plus hours of student volunteer time, about 50 paid staff hours were spent on the cleanup and another 45 hours spent by volunteer leaders.
Students and ad NAP officials said they expect to continue the effort each fall and spring in future years.
Casey Hans edits this newsletter for The Ann Arbor Public Schools. E-mail her or call 734-994-2090.