A group of Pinewood Elementary School students descended on the stream next to their school yesterday afternoon. They dug holes, planted trees, and caught and released crawfish, all in an effort to learn about the environment by cleaning up the water near the Timonium school.
They worked - but no one seemed to notice the heat.
"We've been out in the sun for a while," 7-year-old Morgan McCanie said, "so I'm used to it now."
The project was paid for through a Baltimore County school system program designed to promote environmental education. County students in kindergarten and first and second grades were given the opportunity to identify an environmental problem and provide a solution.
The program, administered by the county schools' Primary Talent Development Department, is designed to encourage children to develop critical thinking skills.
Sixty-six applications were received, but only 10 classes were awarded the $50 grants, said Debbie Myers, a Primary Talent Development resource teacher.
Winning proposals included the creation of flowerbeds, butterfly gardens and litter cleanups, as well as addressing leaking faucets in school bathrooms. This is the first year the grant has been offered.
"I was praying to just get five entries, so we were so excited," Myers said.
After this year's success, department leaders hope to expand the grant program.
After asking her students to come up with ideas for the grant, Pinewood Elementary second-grade teacher Janice Delaney let the children vote on their favorite. The class got the idea for cleaning the stream and planting native trees and flowers on the bank when they went on a nature walk and realized how dirty the water was.
With the $50 grant, Delaney bought flowers to be planted in a small garden next to the stream, which drains into the Loch Raven Reservoir. Local businesses donated plants and mulch, and the Herring Run Watershed Association gave sycamore saplings and helped the children with the project.
"A lot of people feel connected to the stream after activities like this and so later in life they will do things they wouldn't normally do," said Darin Crew, watershed restoration manager for the association.
The association often works with local schools on environmental projects.
"It's great seeing the energy of the kids," he added. While parents helped in the cleanup, providing gardening gloves and cold drinks, it was the 19 students who did most of the work.
"We have been digging up grass, and we are going to plant a tree to make the environment look pretty." said Emma Coard, 7.
Even the heat didn't seem to matter to the children.
"Maybe we should do it some more times," said Joe Franz, 7.
To keep the garden alive during the summer, parents have volunteered to bring their children and water the newly planted flowers and trees.
"I think the parents definitely support the school in all their activities in and out of school," said Kathy Franz, Joe's mother.
Delaney intends to apply for the grant with future classes so that more students can take advantage of the learning opportunity.
"What I hope is that this class, when they go on to third grade, will still feel ownership for the garden and take care of it," she added.