Hands on projects helps sophomore class gain valuable experiences

Students prepare the restoration site at Grand Canyon School for planting. Photo/Tyra Briones

Students prepare the restoration site at Grand Canyon School for planting. Photo/Tyra Briones

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - As part of a School to Work project created by Grand Canyon School's (GCS) sophomore class and in coordination with National Park Service (NPS) vegetation crew members, the area between the middle and high school is now fully restored with plants, mulch and weeded beds.

The project completed during the school's Earth Day celebration April 21 was coordinated by NPS vegetation crew members Zach Huang and Aubrey Woods and GCS biology teacher Sarah Newton.

Emma Perkins, a freshman taking the sophomore biology class said the rangers started working with the class last fall, teaching them everything from identifying plants, planning and mapping out ideas for a restoration sites and implementing those ideas.

"After a couple of weeks the rangers, Zach and Aubrey, came into our class and they started teaching us how to restore things and how to be a good steward of the land," Perkins said.

One of the first projects completed took place over GCS's winter break and involved having the class map out ideas for the restoration site at the school. The final project coincided with other re-vegetation and beaufication projects planned for the school's annual Earth Day celebration.

"We learned about restoration sites to start and then after a few months we figured out what kind of plants we could put in that area," Perkins said. "Earth Day was a good day to start the planting and reorganizing."

Students also got an in-depth overview of the job application processes and even participated in mock interviews given to them by the rangers.

"We wrote resumes and actually filled out applications about what we wanted to do in the restoration site," Perkins said.

Perkins said learning how to fill out job application and having the mock interviews helped her feel more comfortable in talking to potential employers as she applies for summer jobs.

"It's been fun and really informative. It helped a lot when we were working on the job applications because I have never done anything like that," she said. "When the job fair came around and I was getting applications to fill out for a summer job it helped because I kind of knew a little bit more about what I was doing."

Perkins hopes to work this summer at the Grand Canyon Association bookstore.

For the final restoration project on Earth Day, the restoration site, located between the middle and high school buildings at GCS, was weeded and prepped throughout the week before planting and mulching took place.

"We also moved around some benches and the junior class helped us sand the benches to make it look nicer," Perkins said. "Then we did a bunch of planting."

Students planted agave, rabbit brush, spiny star cactus and spread a native grass mix to help keep out invasive species.

Around 14 students from the sophomore class participated in restoring the site at GCS. Perkins said the experience has been a fun learning experience and has taught her how to prepare and plant vegetation.

"I didn't know how to plant properly," she said. "We learned about how you're supposed to dig a hole as deep and twice as wide as the pot for the plant and then you put the plant in and fill it most of the way and then you flood it with water, even if it's a cactus, otherwise the plant will go into shock."

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