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After removing cattails from Paperjack Creek, students loaded them into a city truck to be hauled away. Each student was equipped with a pair of waders and tools to complete the job. (Photo by Jackie Grumish)

New Richmond High students complete day of service

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Hundreds of New Richmond High School students hit the streets on Friday, May 17, to take part in Service Learning Day.

This marked the 10th year of the annual event, which is designed to get students out of the classroom and into the community where they can apply their learned skills to various community service projects.

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Friday wasn't the nicest day the students have seen for the event, but organizer and teacher Trish Moberg said she was happy there wasn't snow on the ground.

"For a while there I thought we might be shoveling," she said with a laugh.

Students were warned about the weather prior to the event and encouraged to dress appropriately.

"I told them we're not going to feel sorry for them if they show up in shorts and a T-shirt," she said. "We've had light rain before, but never downpours."

The kids carnival, which traditionally takes place outside, was moved indoors to the high school gymnasium.

Student workers and volunteers were decked out in traditional Service Learning Day T-shirts, which were designed by senior Tara Bierbrauer.

Projects for the day ranged from picking up trash along Wall Street to painting the dugouts at New Richmond High School to yard work at Gregory's Gift of Hope to hosting a kid's carnival at the high school.

New this year was a project that involved clearing cattails from the Paperjack Greenway.

Harvey Halvorsen, with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, contacted Moberg with the idea and Moberg immediately put him in touch with Brad Malpert, science teacher at the high school.

The Paperjack Greenway project started in 2003 when the DNR, with the help of Irv Sather, Jim Heebink and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, began to clear sediment from Paperjack Creek. Eight years later, the only part of the project that had not been completed was clearing the cattails and rhizomes from the area near the Paperjack Greenway bridge.

"We had to dig deep enough so those cattails wouldn't come back," Halvorsen said.

Students were equipped with waders and various rakes and shovels before they were split into groups.

Beginning in the middle of the channel, students worked for hours to clear the area of cattails.

"Everyone really pulled together to get it done," Halvorsen said. "From the looks of it, they were 100 percent successful."

When comparing their project to some of the less physical projects -- planting flowers in the uptown planters, attending the senior prom at the St. Croix County Health Center and decorating for the all night graduation party, the sophomores in Malpert's homeroom weren't exactly thrilled to be assigned physical labor.

"This is not what I signed up for," one student said.

Other students made the best of the situation, giggling when water made its way into the waders or playfully splashing another student.

For Malpert, the project was a free biology lesson for students.

"I think they learned a lot about invasive species, even though cattails are native," Halvorsen said. "They were a great group of kids."

There are three main goals of Service Learning Day:

• Teach students the importance of service to others.

• Incorporate classroom learning standards into real world situations.

• Create connections between adults and youth.

Service Learning Day was started as a way to help implement the Search Institute's 40 developmental assets. Search Institute asserts that the more assets a young person has, the higher the likelihood of a positive future.

Interacting with the public and working together to benefit the community is a major goal of the Search Institute.

A few of the 40 assets include:

• Family support

• Caring neighborhood

• Community youth values

• Service to others

• Adult role models

For a full list of the Search Institute's 40 developmental assets, visit www.searchinstitute.org/developmentalassets/lists.

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