RSP Awards Student Conservation Grants to Six Districts

The first two of six student conservation grants from the Rural Schools Partnership were presented in December in Stockton and Republic. In addition, projects in Bakersfield, Willow Springs, Hollister and Purdy received funds in the second year of the student conservation program.

In Stockton, elementary and middle-school classes will use a $1,500 grant to develop a quarter-mile education trail near the school in partnership with the Stockton Trails Initiative Coalition and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The trail will include plant and tree identification. Teacher and coach T. Jay Sanderson will work with a naturalist to take kids on field trips and construct bird, butterfly, bat and owl houses.

Republic Middle School was the recipient of a $1,500 Student Conservation grant to create an outdoor learning environment at the school. The new space, which will be enclosed by the school and is currently not being maintained, will be transformed into an outdoor classroom for activities or other learning projects. Under the supervision of John-Marc Merriman, students will create the space, which will be maintained by Republic Middle School student organizations.

Willow Springs Elementary teacher Kelly Wardle, graduate of the RSP’s Ozarks Teacher Corps program, received $1,200 for an extension of a Placeworks grant. Funds will be used to build raised beds and buy seeds and plants for an outdoor garden project.  Beds will be leased to a community member in the summer, with proceeds going back into the garden for soil upkeep and seeds. Students will eat or sell their produce.

The Purdy High School Youth Empowerment and Leadership Project received $1,260 for the purchase of 750-gallon, UV-stabilized, green plastic storage tanks for the purpose of extending the garden project begun last year. Funds will be matched by the district. Ecological thriftiness and sustainable school and community composting are two of the goals, along with healthier eating. Three service learning groups and a greenhouse class will take over the student garden.

The Hollister STAR Alternative School, led by Scott Wegner, received $1,500. The grant will provide some of the materials needed to complete the renovation of a former swamp area into an outdoor classroom called Tiger Springs. The goal is to build a boardwalk over the wetland area. The district’s Industrial Tech classes, after-school classes, Lowe’s and the City of Hollister are collaborators.  Students also will research and identify the native plants, trees and potential bird and animal sightings.

The Bakersfield High School FFA chapter received $1,000 to help build and maintain three concrete bins for composting old plants from the greenhouse, trimmings from the pruning of landscaping plants, leaves during the fall and vegetable waste from the cafeteria.  Students will rotate materials as they break down and the material will be used for landscaping beds at the school and in the community as well as helping to establish a community garden.