Middle school students sprout seeds for spring
Although spring and warmer weather might still be a few weeks away, the New Richmond Middle School’s Greenhouse Club is already preparing to once again help the DNR with a planting project in Star Prairie.
“Last year, we planted the Dotted Blazing Star (liatris punctata), which is an endangered species to this county and the state,” sixth-grade science teacher Travis Helland said. “The seeds were actually taken from the Stillwater bridge area by the DNR, and we got to separate, sort and plant those seeds. Then we planted them in the spring. We would come in every day to water the plants and take care of them.”
The group currently has 15-20 members, but now that the project is hitting its stride, Helland believes that more students will join to take part in the fun of taking care of the plants.
“We just talked about the project with them, so I’m sure we will have a lot more interest once we get going,” Helland said. “We usually start this project in early February when the DNR contacts us to help out with some projects. We have been in touch with them to make sure that they know we have the greenhouse and kids who want to be part of it. It is a good way for us to be involved with the kids, the DNR and make use of the greenhouse.”
Helland works with the Greenhouse Club along with fellow science teachers Kathryn Geissler and Mallory Deziel.
“I work with two other teachers and the three of us have been able to work together to take care of it,” Helland said. “It is nice to have a representative of the science teachers in each grade to relate to the different grade-levels of kids.”
Along with the Dotted Blazing Star, Greenhouse Club members will plant two other species of native plants when they make the trip to Star Prairie in May.
“We will plant about another 500 Dotted Blazing Star and these are not from the bridge area but are from the ones we planted last year, so those were a success,” Helland said. “We had Prairie Smoke (geum triflorum), which were originally from the Somerset area, and we are going to put about 500 of those and 500 Pasque (pulsatilla) as well.”
From now until May, the Greenhouse Club will care for the seeds they planted in February every day.
“After we get the seeds in the ground, the kids in the Greenhouse Club volunteer and pick a day of the week to come in and water and weed the plants in the morning for 15 to 20 minutes,” Helland said. “Then on Tuesday, a different group of kids will come in and we rotate days of the week to get things taken care of. It is a lot of work up front with a lot of planting and seed sorting to get these seeds in the ground at the right time.”
While the students are working on the Star Prairie project, Helland plans to see if he can acquire some other vegetable and fruit seeds for the students to plant and take home with them.
“I’m planning on contacting a couple different seed places so we can give the kids a chance to plant some cool vegetables or fruit to harvest,” Helland said. “I want to give them the opportunity to take care of their own stuff and take it home as part of the Greenhouse Club.”
One of the things Helland likes the most about the Greenhouse Club is that it’s different from many of the other school clubs and athletic teams.
“It is kind of a neat experience for the kids to come in and see the plants growing over the weeks they are taking care of them,” Helland said. “For the kids that want to be a part of a club that might not be a part of a club or athletics, it gives them the opportunity to take part in something. Maybe they have a garden at home or have a friend in it and want to help out. It is important to offer this to the kids so they have the opportunity.”
Above all else, Helland knows that the students in the club enjoy being there and can’t wait to get the chance to plant the seeds they have taken care of for most of the second semester.
“The kids that are in it truly do enjoy the experience and like the responsibilities that they have in the morning,” Helland said. “They absolutely love going out and planting in Star Prairie when we get the day to do that.”