Kromrey students help with gardens

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Kromrey sixth-graders took on quite the undertaking this past school year.

More than 300 students in all helped restore and maintain the rain gardens in the KMS parking lots. The gardens were used as an outdoor laboratory and students restored them as part of a service learning project.

Invasive plants were taking over the gardens and the District's grounds and maintenance crews were being overwhelmed trying to maintain them.

"It is incredible what these kids have done,'' Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy education coordinator Anne Boucher said. "After four seasons of work, the native plants are now outnumbering the invasive plants, their diversity has increased and the gardens are no longer clogged with debris from the previous year's plants.''

The project was initiated by the sixth-grade science teachers in the fall of 2017. They were looking for an outdoor education component for their curriculum and asked for the assistance of members of the Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy, Boucher said.

During the 2017-18 school year, approximately 275 students provided more than 350 hours of labor on the school gardens. During the 2018-19 school year, more than 300 students provided more than 400 hours of labor.

In additon, more than $4000 worth of native plant seeds were donated by Ron Endres, a local native plant expert who collects all of the seeds himself.  He also taught students how to spread the seeds.

Boucher noted about 230 native plants have been donated. Of those, 150 were obtained by a grant application she wrote to the Dane County Native Plants for Schools program, while 80 plants were donated by two naturalists who have been actively involved in the project. Boucher plans to apply for another grant for 150 plants in fall 2019.

Other information of note:

  • Seven naturalists from Pheasant Branch Conservancy have helped the students over these four seasons. They have either volunteered their time or are paid by the Friends.
  • Two naturalists from the University of Wisconsin Arboretum wrote two plant guides that are specific to these gardens. They show and describe the plants that the students are most likely to see during the fall and spring seasons. They donated their time.
  • Tools and gloves were purchased by the District in 2018. They are stored in the Environmental Room at Kromrey and are available to all District students to use.
  • Approximately 1,000 square feet of black landscaping cloth was also donated and has been installed by the students to solarize (kill the weeds and their roots) in parts of the gardens totally overrun by invasive plants.