Lancaster Middle School talented and gifted (TAG) students on May 1 and 2 completed a service project at Belle Isle State Park. Students prepared for their service project by researching native plants of Virginia’s coastal area, reported instructor Alexis Forester.
Park ranger Alyssa Menard visited with the five classes of students in March to discuss the importance of using native plants. She illustrated her lesson by playing an interactive game of “native plants versus invasive species plants” with the students, said Forrester.
Through generous grants from the Friends of the Rappahannock and Lancaster County Schools, ranger Katie Shepard purchased 190 native plants to be used at various planting beds at the park. Through her diligence she was able to double the amount of plants purchased, said Forrester. With help from Native Plant Society members, Menard and Shepard were able to choose plants and planting beds that were overgrown for the LMS students to work.
Some 24 TAG students from fourth, fifth, and sixth-grade were given the job of digging up the planting bed by the Camp Store. Students gently dug up plants and replanted them in a pollinator bed across the park near the Visitor’s Center. This will enhance the beauty of the park when the new exhibit in the Visitor’s Center opens this summer, said Forrester.
Another 18 seventh and eight grade TAG students were given the task the next day of totally clearing the planting beds and readying the soil for the newly purchased plants. Menard instructed students in the proper planting techniques and allowed students to use their knowledge to choose the proper placement of plants according to their need of sunlight and the height of their growth, said Forrester. Students planted, mulched, and watered the beds, then took pleasure in seeing the beauty of their labors.
Each afternoon students were given a guided hike with park rangers explaining the maps and trails of the park. Local historical facts were given to students with colorful stories about the “Oyster Wars” and how Virginia’s governor was able to catch oyster pirates. Students were able to see the ruins of the watch house that was used to help watch over the oyster beds at night. The seventh and eighth-grade students also were able to help beautify the park by picking up trash along the waterfront near the watch house ruins.
Lancaster County Schools thanks Shepard and Menard and chaperones Annette Clark, Robyn Saunders, Kathy Kauffman and Stephanie Schneider for planning and helping conduct a wonderful experience for these students, said Forrester.
Thank you to the Rappahannock Record for publishing this article on May 11, 2017 http://rrecord.com/