Students were busy planting trees using large black plastic pots at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds, which is just across from Hillcrest High School.
Christy Wilder (watershed natives and programs manager) said, “They have Washington hawthorn now.” The Watershed Committee of the Ozarks“So they are able to wet the soil down first, and then once they have that, they’ll get it into the containers. We kind of work one species by one.”
SPS and Watershed Committee of the Ozarks Partnership
The Watershed Committee of the Ozarks works with Springfield Public Schools to provide instruction in seed sorting, soil mixing, stratifying and sowing, as well as soil mixing.
This area is located in the northern section of the fairgrounds and has a high tunnel. It is also where the Watershed Committees Native Garden is located.
Hillcrest High School juniors who worked at the fairgrounds on this day are part of the Environmental & Natural Resource Management pathway. The College and Career AcademiesThe school. It is a program that Springfield Public Schools and Watershed Committee developed. Last year, students planted trees with the WCO in environmental science. They are now studying watershed science.
Wilder stated, “And then they get to do hands on management plans, kinda learn the overall objective, so they can see kinda the end product.”
They plant the trees and native wildflowers on this day. The seeds they use are collected from students in the SPS Greener Greenspace programThe native plants will be sold at the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks’ spring sale. The program will receive the proceeds. Additional seeds are donated to charity Heirloom Seed Library at Springfield-Greene County Library
Wilder explained that the partnership between SPS/WCO and WCO was formed when ecosystem restoration at Valley Water Mill Park was underway and more native plants were required. SPS wanted Academies students to have hands-on experience. It was a great fit.
What students learn
Students can decide if they want to pursue a career involving agriculture and environmental science. They can also earn three industry-recognized credentials. There is also a simpler goal.
Wilder said, “Honestly, just get them unplugged, getting ’em out in the quote unquote dirt to play with thatsomething a bit different.”
Ella Reynolds, a Hillcrest junior, was enjoying the warm late winter days outside.
Reynolds said, “I am more of an outdoor girl, so my hands are dirty.” “I like being outside.”
She plans to attend Missouri State University to pursue a career as a conservationist. She says being part of the Environmental and Natural Resource Management Pathway has helped her get a jump start on her education.
“It’s given me a lot more insight into learning about different plants, weather patterns, and geography,” she said. “Really just a lot about plants.
Jenna Meyers is her classmate and also wants to get into conservation.
Meyers stated, “I love nature and everything nature-wise.”
Meyers, who loves plants and getting dirty, said that she has learned many things from the Academies pathway, which she can use in her pursuit of a career.
“I’ve learned about, for example, water pollution sources. She said she had learned about water systems. “I have learned about conservation and native plants. I’ve learned about the value of, like, taking good care of our planet. Our teacher talks about many environmental effects just as casually in class. This has helped me a lot.
Sharon Blauvelt, Hillcrest’s Environmental and Natural Resources teacher, said that her students will be able to put their knowledge into practice when they design a native plant for the new Canopy Subdivision of north Springfield.
Even if she doesn’t encourage her students to pursue careers in conservation or environmental sciences, she hopes that they’ll remember the lessons they learned in her classes.
She said, “Just to have an appreciation for the environment to care for it more, to understand its importance, not being afraid of going out and buying or making their own little garden, regardless of whether it’s in buckets, or whatever.” “They have been excited about that, like, “oh, it’s possible to grow my own now,” and so they have more confidence and just enjoy being outside.
Tyler Whitman plans to join the military after he graduates in 2024 from Hillcrest. He was busy at the fairgrounds, helping with a variety tasks.
He stated that the program has helped him be more aware of the environment and taken care of the natural areas.
He said, “I’ve learned lots about the environment.”
Christy Wilder says it is rewarding to see students learn and grow, from the moment they enroll in the program and begin learning about soil structures to when they engage in hands-on activities and then when they complete their classes.
She stated that her goal was for them to have the experience, but also to be able, once they are done, to be able see it in action and decide if they want to pursue this career. “For them just to look back in like twenty or thirty years and say, ‘That was probably one of my best things ever.’”
The Collective Impact Grant from the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, Darr Family Foundation provided seed money for the Watershed Natives Program.
Mike Kromrey is the executive director of Watershed Committees. He stated that the long-term goal is to make the program fully sustainable.