Take a bunch of 16- and 17-year-olds, put rakes in their hands, set them to work, and what do you get?
How about some good career decisions?
And a nature trail in a new public park.
That's what they're finding in Hampstead, where the town's Tree Commission decided to involve 34 North Carroll High School forestry students in a project to build a nature trail on a plot of land the town owns in North Carroll Farms, between Greenmount Church Road and Farm Woods Lane.
Today, to celebrate Arbor Day, the students will plant about 40 trees and shrubs at the site.
"I like working in the project," senior Carrie Seigman said on Monday.
Miss Seigman, one of two student members of the Hampstead Tree Commission, said, "I can go back and look at what we've done at the end of the day."
In an interview about the project videotaped by classmate Ryan Martin, Miss Seigman said, "I'm really excited by this." She told of her parents' pride when she took them to visit the site.
She said she plans to major in forestry and is thinking of going to Virginia Tech.
Classmate Megan Raub said Monday the best part of the project was the chance to experience a different kind of work.
"I just assumed all my life that I'd be doing book work," she said. "It's such a neat change of pace."
Senior James Ballard, the other student member of the Hampstead Tree Commission, said the trail project gave him and his classmates a chance to practice some of the forest-management skills they had learned.
For example, he said, they had to help decide which trees to keep and which to remove. Because a goal of the project was to create wildlife habitat, he said, if there was a choice between removing a hickory tree or a cherry tree, the hickory tree would go, because a cherry tree produces fruit that wildlife can eat.
Mike Kelly, a junior at North Carroll High School, said he is thinking about forestry as a career.
"I love the outdoors," he said. "I like to work outside and do things."
He said he will take a wildlife management course in his senior year at North Carroll High. Even if he likes forestry better, he said, it will pay to know something about both subjects, because both play a part in field work.
Tree Commission Chairman Leo Hastings plotted the route of the meandering 400-foot trail, which leads from Greenmount Church Road to the site of a planned tot lot on Farm Woods Lane, off Fairmount Road.
The students, armed with fire rakes, pruning shears and saws, cleared the path to bare ground. The next step will be to lay wood shavings over the trail, and to put a natural-wood border on each side. Eventually, students will put up bird boxes and bat boxes.
The classes would have made more progress, but five of seven planned work sessions so far have been rained out. Three more are scheduled, the last one May 13.
"I think the neat thing is that the students are starting to take pride in what they're doing," said Sarah Osborn, who teaches forestry and landscape classes at North Carroll High School. She said even students who seemed uninterested in the beginning were hooked by the second outing.
"It's something we can definitely build on," she said, because future high school classes will be able to use the park as a practical lab in years to come.
"We've structured it so that it's not all work," Mr. Hastings said. The weekly field trip to the site includes a talk by a speaker on a relevant topic.
One week, Donna Baker, a Tree Commission member who works for the state Department of Natural Resources, showed the students how to use a borer to take a sample of a tree's core. From the sample, students can learn the age and health of the tree, and whether the tree has survived fire or drought.
Students also learned how to select plants. Winterberry plants are native to the area, and they like the wet areas by the creek. Both winterberry and serviceberry plants will provide food for birds.
The Tree Commission decided to have the students plant several species of tree this Arbor Day. That will allow future classes to use the trail to study dendrology, the science of identifying trees.
The Tree Commission will spend about $400 on trees, Mr. Hastings said.
The Tree Commission also set aside $180 for bus transportation for the students. Mr. Hastings said they were given a very good price by Schaffer Bus Service of Hampstead. Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. is donating wood chips for the trail's surface, and "the town's been very helpful."
He said Town Manager John A. Riley and his staff have lent the students tools and provided clerical support for a grant application.
If the $7,000 grant comes through, Mr. Hastings said, the town would provide $3,000 in matching funds, and students in landscaping and wildlife-management classes next year will be invited to work on a larger project, planting about 90 trees on a seven-acre site at Oakmont Green.