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Local eighth graders help plant trees as part of stream initiative

Snow Hill Middle School eighth graders, with Worcester Technical High School agriculture students, are helping plant trees along streams that feed into the Chesapeake Bay as part of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s Stream Restoration and Forest Revitalization Challenge. (Photo courtesy of Barbara Witherow)

(Sept. 20, 2013) Around 80 Snow Hill Middle School eighth graders spent last Thursday getting their hands dirty by planting 40 trees behind the school to improve stream health and to revitalize forests.

The project to restore headwaters feeding into the Chesapeake Bay will continue throughout the school year, the school’s coordinator of instruction, Joshua Fradel, said, and it’s goals are twofold: “put a substantial addition to the stream buffer… as well as help the students learn about the process where humans interact with their watershed.”

While the eighth graders have been reading about the environment in class, the project is multifaceted when it comes to the classroom.

Math students plotted the trees by calculating the distance needed between each based on overhang and Worcester Technical High School students used power equipment to the drill holes for the trees, Instructional Coordinator for Science at Snow Hill Middle School Marlyn Barrett said.

“We’ve been working on combining service learning and environmental outdoor education … together for several years,” Barrett said. “This is sort of a culmination of our first really large project.”

The Snow Hill project is part of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s Stream Restoration and Forest Revitalization Challenge and the school won a $50,000 grant to from the state last spring to do it. Students will tackle several sites over five acres this fall, the largest being Five Mile Branch behind the Board of Education building, Barrett said.

Snow Hill is one of a handful of schools in the state to win a Stream Restoration and Forest Revitalization Challenge grant, which mostly went to larger city and county governments and parks and recreations departments, Fradel said. Part of its appeal was the Five Mile Branch site, identified as a critical watershed that drains into the Pocomoke River.

The eighth graders will be out again almost every Friday over the next month, fixing native plants in different sites, including Pocomoke River State Park. They’ll take to the field again in the spring, and possibly beyond, to keep up the project, Fradel said.

“We should be able to apply again to get another” grant, he said. “They’ve (state officials) asked us to participate on an ongoing basis.”

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