David Neighoff jumped on the shovel with both feet and dug into the soil outside the Chesapeake Academy in Severna Park.
The 6-year-old and several schoolmates wrestled with the earth yesterday to plant two huge baskets of chrysanthemum plants as part of Greater Severna Park's Beautification Campaign. But it wasn't their first brush with ecology.
Each year since the school opened 12 years ago, classes have planted individual gardens in beds that line the back of the school with roses, vegetables and wild flowers.
In this school, bugs found in classrooms are valued as harmless creatures and returned outdoors, said headmistress Jane Pehlke.
"We don't kill spiders and crickets here. If we can catch them, we take them outside," she said. "If a cricket starts chirping in a meeting, I say, 'Don't worry about that. That's one of our friends.' "
Last year, the fourth-graders used the money they earned from recycling projects to buy rose bushes for their garden patch, said Suzanne Fair, the school's PTA president.
The first-graders planted bulbs that will sprout this spring, and the fifth-graders planted dogwood trees. Right now, several classes are growing winter wheat in bottles in the school library, along with indoor wildflower gardens. When the wheat grows high enough, the children will plant it outside.
Besides planting trees and flowers, the students also pick up HTC litter along the nearby B&A; Trail.
"The children are extremely conscious of their environment, in and out of school," said Ms. Pehlke. "They have a genuine sense of cleanliness and beauty."
That, said Carol Romano, is what the Greater Severna Park beautification campaign is all about. The campaign chairwoman said dozens of communities have signed up for projects since the cleanup began several weeks ago.
The campaign, which the council hopes to make an annual event, ends Saturday. A Dumpster will be available for community cleanup use in the Severn School parking lot from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
But the organized effort to coordinate planting flowers and beautifying neighborhoods in Greater Severna Park will continue, Ms. Romano said.
Cub Scouts in Arnold plan to plant flowers in their neighborhood; Lower Magothy Beach residents are cleaning up their beach area, and an Odenton Elementary School car pool has teamed up to plant shrubs in the Severna Park Village Shopping Center.
From Brownie troops to the Severna Park Rotary Club, neighbors have joined the effort, Ms. Romano said.