One of the greatest ideas for a high school community project is one which affects all members of the community and improves their lives. It is that of making an area which is of little value into a valuable area. Within local parks, perhaps there is a corner of the park which isn’t used for anything other than as a grassed or wasteland area. This makes a wonderful opportunity and the teacher can research areas within their community and seek out the permissions needed for the project to take place. Creating a natural space which also has educational interest means that students are enhancing an area which would otherwise be of little use.
The reasons this would work
The reasons that this makes such a good community project when compared with other kinds of projects is that it doesn’t involve safety too much. Working at ground level, the students could be allocated tasks which bear little risk. Other projects may have insurance risks such as involving ladders, or hazards to students, whereas a ground based project using normal manual tools will not have these hidden dangers. There are other reasons why this would work and how this could be used in conjunction with education. A botany class for example could use this practical adventure to get hands on experience of plants and wildlife. This may be the children’s first step toward doing something within a garden area, but the understanding that they gain of ecosystems and how different wildlife are encouraged by planting opens up their minds to the world around them.
Planning the project
With the initial permissions in place, the school class can design an area which attracts, for example, butterflies. This is relatively easy, since there are many plants which grow easily which fall into this category. During this time, the students can research to find out which plants work within that geographical area and attract butterflies. A plan of the site can be made, and students encouraged to take measurements at the site, to work out what kind of garden could be planted. The plans can be drawn down to scale on paper, making the classroom element of the project a very viable one which involves the children working together to come up with a workable design.
In the clearing of the area ready for planting, the children can be divided into teams to work together to prepare the area ready for the planting. Drawing out pathways with a spray paint, the design can be transferred onto the earth so that everyone is working toward the same goals and knows where things go. The teams can be given different responsibilities, but will be encouraged to work together, those who show no interest being pulled into the project as a team knowing that if they don’t help, they let their team down.
Digging and enriching the soil.
The children can be taught how to read the acidity of soil, which is a valuable lesson in itself. Then they can learn what needs adding to the soil to make it viable for planting the plants that they have chosen. The soil needs to be dug and weeds pulled so that it is ready for the plants, and at this stage, they will add the nutrients needed to sustain the planting.
Visiting a local garden center
When the school has a set budget which can be spent on the project, the children can go on a field trip to the local garden center to look at the type of plants and be taught to choose plants for the project within a set budget. This helps them to understand the economics of a project, and learn to handle the constraints of a budget. If the teacher can talk to the garden center in advance, it is possible that garden center staff can be available to go over the optional plants for encouraging butterflies that the children may not already be aware of.
Planting out the garden
The planting stage is good fun, and the children and teachers should place the plants on top of the soil to see where they would be better placed. Children can learn about how big plants grow, and also how to place them to best advantage. This helps children to learn perspective. Digging the holes for the plants, and teasing out the roots helps them understand the needs of plants. Watering the plants as they are placed within the garden and learning how to nurture them to encourage growth is also very useful. The garden will need maintenance for the first period after the planting, since until the root systems are developed, the plants will need watering and care.
Gravel pathways can be laid in simple format. Here, the children can learn to use tools such as rollers and compactors which are pushed, rather than mechanical, to make the soil solid enough to take the gravel. It could be a fun exercise of strength, each child getting their turn to push the roller. The sprinkling of the gravel can also be a joint effort, as at this stage, the garden will have taken shape and the pathways will be the best part.
Opening the garden
If it is possible for the school to get publicity for their efforts, all the better. This will indeed make the children feel proud of their achievements and allow the public to be aware of the work that they have done. An opening day could be accompanied by the cutting of a ribbon to open that area of the park to the public. This is a relatively easy community project to arrange, and in large towns where wastelands stand dormant can be a good idea to help rejuvenate the area for the community who live there.