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EDSS students busy sprucing up the school grounds

Cole Harth and Teagan Cadeau help rebuild a fence separating EDSS from neighbouring residents [Bill Atwood]

Students at Elmira District Secondary School are putting the finishing touches on multiple projects while also making their school grounds a little more appealing.

Students in the Grade 11 construction class completed a much needed rebuilding of the fence that separates the school and homes behind it, while the green industries and environmental science class are conducting a revitalization of the flower beds in the “U” driveway at the front of the school.

The school’s back fence was damaged when trees on the property grew into it. While the board paid for the material and the installation of the posts by a private company, students jumped at the opportunity to work on the project.

“This class is extremely hard working, and they’re hard to keep seated. And it’s actually better when they have jobs that they just do this. Keeping these guys sitting in a classroom is not easy,” said construction teacher Alex Derma.

“They get to just work, they don’t have to do the lessons or do any sort of sit down structured work. Unfortunately, for this age group, COVID really made it hard for going back to the classroom. So we realized that this is a bit of a great opportunity for them. To be honest, 75 minutes fly and they’re not in the school so they’re not looking at the clock,” he said.

There are a lot of real world applications for the project, Derma said.

“It is very uncommon that we do something like this, this is very real. This is something they’re going to do with their own house.”

Green industries and environmental science teacher Barb Gaudet expressed a similar sentiment with her class’s project.

“It gets them first of all hands on learning, which is so critical. It’s also real life skills, skills that they can put into workplaces, either in landscaping, or also in just their future lives. Many of them will be homeowners, and we’ll be doing some yard maintenance, as well,” Gaudet said.

The “U” was in need of an upgrade, Gaudet said.

For the class, the students first learned about aspects of landscape design, they then each designed a proposal for what they would like to see in the design-with certain parameters.

“They had to be within the right zones for the plants, they needed to be perennials, they needed to be low-maintenance, and they needed to take into consideration the sun and shade. And then they had height restrictions, so that you could still see that front sign,” explained Gaudet.

The students have since weeded and tilled the flower beds, and are now waiting on the new plants. While the process was long, it was rewarding, said student Emma Wiseman.

“We loved putting in the work. It’s more fun to be part of something like this, to make something as beautiful as it is, every day. It’s kind of cool. It’s very rewarding. When I walk past I see it sometimes and I’m just like, ‘wow, we did that,’” she said.

Gaudet agreed noting that these projects could have a long-lasting impact.

“By giving them the ownership of these projects, then they feel invested in it. And so they feel more like coming. And for some of these projects, those are lasting ones that in 10-15 years, they’ll be able to say ‘I did that.’ And that is a really neat feeling that they can see the impact that their work is having on the school community.”

Gaudet’s class also germinated vegetable seeds with the hope of the school being able to plant a vegetable garden next year.

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