East Rockford Middle School Earth Keepers

Students learn about capturing nature’s bounty

August 23, 2012 // 0 Comments

Students in the Earth Keepers Magnet at East Rockford Middle School (ERMS) spent last school year on a variety of projects to learn about responsible earth keeping. As a service-learning project, the 55 students identified the need to limit the amount of storm water runoff that was entering the nearby Bostwick Lake through ERMS parking lot drains. “We just looked for the areas that the water was running to after a rain,” stated student Emma Wilkinson. During the school year the students heard from guest speakers from West Michigan Environmental Action Council and the River City Wild Ones about how planting a rain garden would improve water quality. With the help of Tom Laage, brother of teacher Linda Spencer, the chosen area was excavated and prepared for planting. Students removed rocks from the site and used them to create a rock drainage swale in another area and spread seven yards of hardwood mulch to prepare the site. “Mr. Mike and Ms. Amy helped us pick out the plants so we had plants that could survive. Some of them have very long roots so they can really soak up the water,” said student Meriah Gannon. Most of the plants were purchased with a grant that teachers Spencer and Barb Altizer were awarded from GROUNDSWELL, a coalition of community partners that is focused on improving the Great Lakes Watershed through hands-on learning opportunities. The Earth Keepers partnered with the Baldwin Foundation, Amy Heilman of River City Wild Ones, Michael Bruggink of Fenview Landscape Design, and Nate Haan of Calvin College to plan, design and plant the rain garden. “Did you know that storm water is emptied directly into our waterways?” asked sixth-grader Casey Lenon, who went on to explain, “All that stuff that is on the pavement and roof top is channeled right to our waters and is called non-point source pollution!” On June 5, the students planted the 150+ plants and labeled them with plans to add to the garden in the future. Student Josh Wittenbach explained, “A rain garden will filter the oils and other pollutants out of the water so they never make it to the lake.” The students were excited to complete the garden and look forward to seeing it grow over their […]

Student gardens grow with hands-on learning

June 16, 2011 // 0 Comments

                            After two hot weeks of removing sod one shovel at a time, spreading nine yards of mulch, and planting approximately 200 native species of plants, the East Rockford Middle School Earth Keepers (EK) students have a completed garden. For the two weeks the EK students have been diligently removing sod from an area on the west side of the building near the entrance. “We only hit and broke through one irrigation pipe. Good thing the owner of Splash has his daughter in our room!” said teacher Barb Altizer. The garden, along with the making of 13 rain barrels, is the culminating activity for the students after learning about storm water, watersheds and the importance of using native plants in landscapes and gardens. After spreading nine yards of mulch on the last day of school, the kids were able to begin planting the native plants provided by Nate Haan from Calvin College. “We also had help from our ‘community partners’ Mike Bruggink of Fenview Landscape Design and Amy Heilman of River City Wild Ones. In the future we hope to split plants and collect seeds to share and plant another garden,” Altizar stated. Funding for this project was provided through a grant from GROUNDSWELL, an organization that promotes service learning and place-based education. “We are very proud of our Earth Keepers kids,” said Altizer. “They worked very hard. According to our partners, some of the plants will grow to be chest high by the fall. We can’t wait!”