Tuesday afternoon, members of the Elkin High School Environmental Club with assistance from members of the Interact Club continued their work on the garden located on the north side of the high school. This is their second work day after students with the aid of a few adults worked on Sept. 17 to create planter boxes for an inter-program garden.
Not only will members of the Environmental Club learn about sustainable living, but the biology classes plan to use this space for a pollinator garden, the English classes for journaling, and the foods grown also will be used in classes with what remains going to the Tri-County Christian Crisis Ministry food bank.
“We’re trying to get as many students involved as we can. Yes, the Environmental Club spearheaded it, but we really want it to serve the community,” said April Swarey, English language arts teacher and one of the faculty advisors.
Beginning with the arbor created through a senior project, this garden space will be created in several stages. The next stage will be a shed in which to store tools followed by a deer fence which members decided was necessary after finding several hoof prints in the freshly tilled land. It is also hoped that benches and a chalk board can be added for an outdoor education learning center.
According to science teacher Ruth Ann McComb, this space was made possible thanks to a grant from Surry Soil and Water Conservation District that was a cooperative effort. She credited Deborah Cave and Tony Davis of the SSWCD for their help. The $2,500 grant awarded to McComb and Swarey is given to aid in conservation and protection of the natural resources of Surry County and is part of a matching fund program. Initial investment for the garden was made possible by donations from Greg Sidden of North Carolina Farm Bureau Insurance Group and Dr. Jim Harrell Jr. and his associates Drs. Lauren and Gardner Meek as well as donations of tools and equipment from other sources.
The Elkin High School Environmental Club is an organization open to students of all ages covering a wide variety of projects that include gardening, art, politics and hiking as well as many community improvement activities. Last fall the members worked with the Watershed NOW organization, spraying warnings about runoff on area storm-drain grates.
According to the school website, its purpose is “to raise awareness and provide support for sustainable living initiatives and environmental conservation projects in our local area,” and it seems to be succeeding said Elkin High School Principal Joel Hoyle. “Students are involved in hands-on learning of practical things. The students are putting into practice things they learned in science classes. They are interested in the environmental, but this is a way for the kids to get involved. They don’t have to be here. They are not getting a grade for being out here. They’re here because they want to be.”
Tending to gardens seems to be a lost art, according to Swarey, although senior Cameron Beals hopes to have a garden of her own when she gets older. She thinks the Environmental Club is “an awesome way to promote being outdoors and it betters our community.” Seyry Borjas-paz agreed, stating she likes “things about the earth and being outside,” as a great reason to join the club.
The club has been active for four years. There are 13 members this year including club president Asher McRitchie, who is following in his sister’s footsteps, although he has been involved with community beautification projects before. He and his sister were members of the team that worked on the bank next to Harry’s Place. “After seeing what we had done to beautify the community with all the wildflowers and mulching, in the spring when the flowers started growing, it really reinforces that the environment is something we need to preserve and protect. We need to maintain the environment. It’s going to be here for our grandkids.”
Seniors wishing to complete benches in the garden for their senior project should contact the Environmental Club faculty advisors McComb or Swarey for more information. The entire garden project must be completed by Dec 15.
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Twitter @TBeanieTaylor.