One of my passions outside of my work with green schools is restoring historic homes. I have restored two such homes over the years, in Massachusetts and in Iowa. And not just any old house…the building had to speak to me. In both cases, the land the homes sat on needed attention as well. In Massachusetts, the grass surrounding the home was up to my hips and old grapevines masked an abundance of heirloom plants. The home in Iowa, a historic farmhouse, came with prairie land in desperate need of restoration. I took on both projects with abandon; however, as much as I enjoyed restoring the old homes, it was the restoration of the landscapes that brought me the greatest satisfaction.
My work in Iowa to restore the prairie around my farm house inspired me to dive deeper into prairie restoration. I worked with a group that was helping farmers identify old prairies that had been grazed early and were overtaken by eastern red cedars once the grazing stopped. By removing the trees, we enabled dormant seed banks to receive proper sunlight and come back to life, thus restoring the land, slowly, to its original state. In my yard in Massachusetts, we were able to revive a beautiful garden that had most likely been planted in the early 1930s. Both projects helped me to understand the role of stewardship in creating a sustainable future…not just for the living landscape…but for the human soul as well.
If we want to create a sustainable future, it is vital that we teach our children and future generations the importance of the physical and natural habitats that make up our local ecosystems and our communities. If a graduating student does not understand the natural landscape and how natural resources shape our economy, how will they be able to protect these resources in the future?
This month’s GreenNotes will introduce you to a variety of student driven restoration projects going on across the country. In Wisconsin, students are restoring forest and river habitats through the state’s school forest program and Earth Partnership at the University of Wisconsin – Madison Arboretum, respectively. In New York City, teachers and their students are working with the Billion Oyster Project to bring oysters and their habitats back to New York Harbor. You will also learn about the Caring for Our Watersheds competition, which challenges students to identify and address a pressing environmental issue in their community, and the Student Conservation Association, a globally-recognized organization that is connecting students with nature through immersive conservation and restoration projects around the country.
Connecting children to the land through restoration projects not only teaches them to leave no trace, but to look closer to home in an effort to restore their communities and their ties to family and friends. By understanding where we stand in the world and how the actions we take support and connect us to others, we can create and nurture healthy communities and ecosystems for generations to come.