High school has it made in the shade Students pitch in to beautify grounds HOWARD COUNTY EDUCATION

April 26, 1993|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Staff Writer

Dirt flew off the shovels, covering 14-year-old Rachel Wisniewski's spanking new Keds.

"My shoes," she said with annoyance, bending down to brush off debris. "I just got them."

She was one of more than 30 students who pitched in to plant 14 trees in front and around Oakland Mills High School last week as part of Earth Week activities. And she, like her all-female crew of three, was having problems digging the hole. They set shovels in the ground then pounced on them to make inroads in the dirt.

"It's hard," Rachel said. "It's like mud sticking together."

Planting trees is no fun, but "I think it will make our school a lot better," her friend, 14-year-old Katie Vatalaro, said. "A lot of trees are being torn down now, and we have to keep replanting them."

Never mind that trees supply oxygen. Students also had a selfish motive: Many eat lunch outside during nice days, and the trees would provide welcome shade. But it'll take a couple of years until the trees -- now just scrawny saplings -- grow big enough for that.

The project was sponsored by the Howard County Association of Student Councils' community service committee, led by Oakland Mills student Kelly Naylor. The group planted a total of 50 sweet gum, red bud and green ash trees -- as well as viburnum shrubs -- thanks to donations from Tree-Mendous Maryland and the local forestry board. The trees are native to Maryland and will also line grassy lots at Hammond, Atholton and Centennial high schools.

High-schoolers weren't the only ones participating in Earth Week:

* At Pointers Run elementary in Clarksville, parents and staff planted six trees in a backyard grass lot, each of the trees representing each of the six grades. Teresa Logan, PTA president, said the school hopes to build garden plots and install picnic tables to create an environmental learning center.

* At Lisbon Elementary, where parent-teacher conferences pre-empted Earth Week activities until this week, students will wear earth-tone T-shirts and plant five trees, all donated from local nurseries. They'll also hear a state park ranger talk about recycling.

* At Phelps Luck elementary in Columbia, second-graders led a litter patrol and picked up trash around the school. They also painted trash cans in the form of space monsters to make disposing garbage more attractive to students. Fifth-graders, meanwhile, planted pansies in a garden plot and donated a tree to the school. Students brought trash-less lunches on Thursday to mark Earth Day.

The school system over the last three years has begun campaigns to recycle cardboard, certain papers, aluminum and plastic. Today, Browning-Ferris Industries is going into two schools -- Swansfield Elementary and Clarksville Middle -- to start a pilot project to recycle milk and juice containers. A program at Atholton High School is expected to start shortly thereafter, said Robert Lazarewicz, director of operations for the schools.

If the pilots are successful, Howard County may start a school system-wide effort as early as next school year, he said.

"Students are far more sophisticated," he said. "They're more aware of our environmental concerns and have more recycling NTC information than students not far removed from them now."

Browning-Ferris Industries has been recycling in Howard County schools for the past 18 months -- an average of 8,000 cubic yards of cardboard and paper and 700 cubic yards of aluminum and plastic containers a month.

"The enthusiasm is very high," said Ray Ehrlich, Browning-Ferris recycling specialist. "Everybody's excited about it."

Mr. Ehrlich estimates that the schools are saving about 1,100 trees as well as about 200 cubic yards of landfill space a month.

At Oakland Mills this year, students and faculty members petitioned for the school cafeteria to replace plastic foam trays with washable ones. They promised to monitor students and replace the ones that are thrown away.

Washable trays cost $2.50 each and plastic foam ones, just pennies. Over the long run, it's cheaper to use the washable ones if students don't throw them away, Mr. Lazarewicz said.

Almost all elementary schools and most middle schools and high schools have washable trays. "We were finding that we couldn't afford replacing all the trays," said Mr. Lazarewicz, adding high schoolers throw them away the most.

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