Third-graders in Ann DeWitt’s class and Jessica VanderLaan’s kindergartners are teaming up with community members to spruce up the trail and create an outdoor learning environment for the entire school and community to use.
The collaborative effort is extending the work started by a group of Fruitport Boy Scouts.
DeWitt applied and recently received a $2,000 grant from the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative and Earth Force toward the effort. The grant has provided them with funds to bring in speakers to talk about plants and wildlife, and work toward increasing the trail’s use and bringing in more plants and wildlife.
In the spring, they plan to hold a cleanup day. DeWitt said they are also considering adding benches, rain barrels and new plant life.
DeWitt said she enjoys watching her students get involved and become enthusiastic about their contributions.
“It’s so exciting to see the excitement on their faces,” she said.
The kids kicked off the project this past fall by looking at the trail’s condition and ways they could improve it.
Third-grader Brody Richards said they saw a garbage can tipped over along the trail.
“That’s really bad for other animals,” he said.
Third-grader Riley Goostrey said they built habitats in hopes of drawing more animals to the wooded area.
Students sought community feedback about the trail by launching a survey the third-graders created, which 62 people participated in. Community members responded to questions on how often they use the trail, what they would like to see changed and what animals they would like to see in the area.
VanderLaan said the two classrooms work together as reading buddies, and the project has strengthened that bond.
The kindergarten teacher said she wants her students to participate in the program because of the overall impact it has on them and their surroundings.
“I want them to develop a sense of community at this age,” she said.
Recently, students built bird feeders out of bottles and pinecones for the trail. DeWitt said parents donated some supplies for the project.
“I like that the animals are coming,” third-grader Courtney Mayette said.
Community members interested in volunteering or donating supplies can contact DeWitt by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or VanderLaan by e-mailing email@example.com. They can also be reached by phone at 231-773-8996.