The students of Guilford Elementary School were stuck in a quandary one year ago. They wanted to study the wildlife behind the school, but there was very little to study.
"You are looking at one of the most barren school sites in the county," said vice principal John Hammond.
The six-acre lot behind Guilford Elementary School is covered with a well-kept green lawn, which is occasionally broken up by a baseball diamond and soccer field. No other forms of vegetation or wildlife exist.
"We have not been able to find any bugs out there," said Barbara Conn, a gifted and talented program research teacher who is the self-described "mentor" of the student drive for the nature area.
A significant step toward changing Guilford Elementary's dilemma occurred last Wednesday, when students, teachers, administrators and politicians celebrated the establishment of the Guilford Nature Area -- a 5,000 square-foot section of the school's rear yard designed to reinvigorate the area with animals and plants for students to observe and to study.
As the pupils sang "This Land is Your Land," assembled dignitaries -- including County Executive M. Elizabeth Bobo and State Delegate Virginia Thomas -- planted trees that would form a windbreak on the south side on the nature area.
"This is a dream that is just beginning to be realized," observed Hammond as he stood inside the area that is now just a couple of white pine trees, a few seasonal saplings, all planted inside a spray-painted blue border.
The ambitious three-year plan promises tree groves, hedges, a butterfly garden and a meadow for the area. A small amphitheater for open-air classes will be started over the winter.
With Howard County schools requiring a life-science section for science instruction, the need for a flourishing nature area for outdoor instruction became increasingly important.
"You need trees; you need plants," said Hammond.
One of Conn's fifth-grade students, Robbie Schreufer, described the survey he and fellow students gave to Guilford's science teachers asking them what they would like to have in the proposed nature area.
"It was kind of like a dream list -- waterfall, ponds, trees, bushes, a walkway," said Schreufer.
From this survey, Conn's students -- in need of funding for their venture -- created and presented a proposal before the Guilford Elementary PTA.
Although the PTA granted some funds, more sources of assistance are necessary. Conn said that as of the day of the dedication, further funding will come from The Guilford Elementary PTA, in conjunction with the Westinghouse Corp., which is collecting computer paper to be recycled for cash.