The East Grand Rapids High School landscape is ready to flourish, thanks to members of the new high school gardening club, “Wild and Dirty.”
Students embraced their kick-off “Spring Greening” project recently, following the advice of the Dr. Seuss character The Lorax to “plant a seed in the center of town,” which for them is the high school. Students cleared debris, leaves and weeds from the entire landscape, raking, hauling and prepping areas for planting.
There next steps: planting native foliage and a garden of edibles to yield a harvest for people in need. “It’s a great way to help out the environment and keep it looking good,” said East Grand Rapids 10th grade student Lucas Kirkwood, a club member. “It’s a great thing to do.”
Advanced master gardener Margaux Drake led the more than 60 workers, motivating them to work with her “plant it forward” philosophy in mind. Drake is founder of The Giving Gardens, a local non-profit organization that has worked for several years to transplant foliage to areas in need of landscaping.
“I have been blown away by the amount of kids (who) have come and how hard they worked,” Drake said at the end of “Spring Greening.”
High School Principal Jenny Fee said the clean-up work usually falls on the shoulders of the Parent Teacher Association, and the students’ help is appreciated. “It gives the kids an opportunity to give to the local economy,” she said.
Hoping to inspire others
The club also held a free pre-Earth Day public screening of The Lorax, in partnership with Celebration Cinemas, with members onsite to talk about native plants and to inspire the community to participate in Spring Greening.”
Gabby Mills, 17, a City High School student, volunteered. “I like planting and I think planting forward native plants and getting rid of invasive plants, making Michigan more ‘Michigan’ is really cool. It’s good, hard work making school beautiful,” Gabby said.
The educational opportunities the club allows are endless, Drake said. “Teaching kids how to plant and grow native plants and their own food opens up a whole new way to learn about the environment, ecology, economics, as well as teamwork and volunteerism.”
Drake, of East Grand Rapids, has always involved students in her projects. Her children, tenth-grader Stevie, eighth-grader Ellie and sixth-grader Teddy attend East Grand Rapids Schools.
Wild & Dirty is also collaborating with other non-profits and organizations including Summer Journeys, the River City Wild Ones, and the East Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Department. Local businesses have shown support by hanging teaser posters in their windows from a recent campaign.