Weeding out at a Burnsville elementary school
BY Matthew hankey - SUn NEwspaperS
In a time when school budgets are increasingly shrinking, any contributions to help out are welcome. It's even better when students and faculty can pitch in and get their hands dirty.
This spring, Sioux Trail Elementary School students and staff have done their part to beautify the school's exterior by weeding and picking up trash.
"First impressions can last a long time," said Principal Taber Akin. "We want to have the outside of the school reflect the good things that are going on in the inside of the school."
School custodian Mark Glende mows the lawn, while students and teachers maintain the flower and plant beds in front of the school, Akin said. Each week this spring, two grade levels have been responsible for cleaning up the grounds. Teachers determine when their classrooms can contribute to the clean-up effort, whether it's at recess or during class.
Christine Peterson's kindergarten class and Saloua Thompson's LINK kindergarten class joined Dewy Barton's sixth graders May 24 to weed for an hour in the afternoon. Each sixth grader supervised one to two kindergarteners and made sure weeds - not flowers - were being pulled.
"We're cleaning up the earth and making everything healthier," said sixth grader Britney Hauser, hands full of dandelions and other weeds.
When Peterson informed her students about the weeding project, they understood the importance of their contribution, saying things like, "'This for the community' and 'helping.' Things like that," she said.
For some students, this project is their first exposure to working in a garden, Peterson said.
The building and grounds department for School District 191 had previously mowed all the grounds at Sioux Trail, but Glende offered to cut the front and side grass this year. He wanted to lessen the burden for the crew, who provide mowing for the other nine elementary schools, three junior high schools, and one high school in the district.
Glende spends 20 minutes a day cutting the grass with a standard walk-behind mower, cutting a section of grass each day during the week.
"It's nice, because it always has that fresh mowed appearance," Glende said. "It always looks like something was just mowed."
Glende said says the school district shies away from fertilizing the grass and flowerbed areas. That's where the weed pickers come in. The project has helped to bring the school closer by instilling a sense of pride in how it appears, Akin said.
"I think it really builds a sense of ownership, which the already staff has, but the students also have and they can say, 'This is our place,'" Akin said.
Students are currently taking mandatory state tests, and getting outside to clean up has been a welcome test break, Akin said. This project has shown that work and play can go hand in hand.
"Students get the exercise, but the school also benefits," Akin said.
He hopes the landscaping effort continues through the summer. Planning to get students, teachers, and school community members together is about to get underway, Akin said.
Glende considers the school to belong to the surrounding neighborhood, and can tell their work has paid off this spring. In the past, he's heard complaints if the school got behind on their landscaping. This year, the school has received more compliments for their efforts.
"If we can go that little extra step and show our neighbors that we're doing our part, it shows that we're united in the community," Glende said.