Manchester Valley — a Maryland Green Ribbon School — uses teamwork to create native garden, help health of bay

Students work on a native garden at Manchester Valley High School

Students stood on the sloping hill behind Manchester Valley High School, some shoveling stones, others digging dirt and some tucking plants softly into the ground.

The group of students worked together as the sun shone down Friday, signs of spring evident as the high schoolers worked to bring greenery to the school's back parking lot.


The project, planting a native garden on the hill leading up to the tennis courts behind the school, was funded by a $5,000 grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust and another nearly $5,000 matching funding from other organizations, Hannah McNett, a science teacher at Manchester Valley, said.

McNett via email said this year, the school was chosen by Maryland State Department of Education as one of two top public schools in the state of Maryland using national standards, making it one of two Maryland Green Ribbon Schools for 2018.


"The next step is that the federal government will take each state's nominations and choose the top National Green Ribbon School for 2018. We will find out in May if we are a top ranked National Green Ribbon School," she said.

Manchester Valley is already a Maryland Green School, McNett said, "which means that we went through a very vigorous project to become a state-level green school." But, she said, they wanted more than that.

"We wanted to be the best in Maryland," she said, adding that becoming a Green Ribbon School is the next step.

Eventually, she said, they want to become the best green school in the country. To get this recognition, the school has done a lot of student service- and STEM-related activities.

"It's activities like this that get us to the next level," McNett said of Friday's gardening project.

McNett said the side of the hill was originally mulched, but the problem was that whenever it rained, the mulch would run off and that gets into the water, which makes its way to the Chesapeake Bay, she said, because Carroll is in its watershed.

The plan is to remove all of the non-native plants and replace it with native plants and some stones, she said.

"Hopefully those will hold the soil back," she said. "The biggest problem with the Chesapeake Bay … is sedimentation or chemicals going into the bay, which includes soils."

McNett said a lot of people think science is just "test tubes and taking tests," but it's about projects like this garden where students can go out, problem solve and use their skills.

For 10th-grader Alexandra Overby, of Manchester, the chance to work in the garden was just that. She said she'd never done something like this before.

"It's new for a lot of us," she said.

She said it's nice to do something that's not an in-class activity.


"I have learned a lot," she said. "It has really helped me get my head in the game."

But in addition to the learning part, McNett said what's really important, she said, is the community aspect of the project.

They even brought in Boy Scouts last week to help start the garden, McNett said.

"The fact that Man Val is coming together," McNett said, alluding to the merging of North Carroll and Manchester Valley after the 2015-16 school year, "this is just one other artifact to say that we are becoming one school. That we are becoming one community."


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