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Hillside Elementary School and Hastings High School Students Join to Help Hillside Woods

Jonah Ballard helps second graders dig and plant a stake for their future tree.Students from Hastings High School and Hillside Elementary School teamed up this past week to help the Hillside Woods with a planting party.

Hillside Elementary School’s second grade took a stroll to the Hillside Woods this past Tuesday, where they met Hastings High School’s AP environmental science class to help plant some saplings together. In collaboration with the Hillside Woods Restoration Project, the activity had students handling a wide variety of native plants that will grow into the future “residents” of the Hillside Woods.

“We learned how to plant a tree safely,” said second grader Sam E. “It decreases the rate of cancer and greenhouse gases.”

Although the activity was a great chance for the students from both schools to get some time in the great outdoors, the planting party was an even better chance for the Hillside Woods Restoration Project to gain some ground on restoring the habitat.

“It doesn’t seem like that the ecosystem is that terrible,” said junior Jonah Ballard. “But it is actually not in a good spot so being able to help feels great.”

The species planted by the students will provide a home for indigenous animals and insects that have been in decline due to deer and invasive plants. For the volunteers aiding the Hillside Woods, getting students involved outdoors and helping their local habitat was the best possible combination.

“It's a triple win,” said Hillside Woods Restoration Project volunteer Haven Colgate. “The project educates, contributes to positive, healing changes in the world, and creates community fabric. For students anxious about climate change and species loss, it helps them feel more hopeful for the future.”

For the students involved in the activity, getting to help the habitat while collaborating with fellow students was not just a learning experience but also a way to bond over their backyard.

“For me, it was really cool to work with the second graders,” said Ballard. “It’s a good opportunity and I think it should happen a lot more.”

“It was so cool, I liked it a lot,” added second grader Gabriel A.

With a successful planting party in the books, the collaboration is set to continue with more in the coming weeks, and hopefully, the students can see the saplings they planted together turn into one of the many towering trees of the Hillside woods.

“It was great to see the students working together to improve this habitat, and we look forward to watching the trees grow up,” said AP environmental science teacher Melissa Shandroff.

“The Hillside Woods Restoration Project is an opportunity to restore a healthier habitat, but it's equally an opportunity for residents, including students, to learn more about the natural world around them,” added Colgate. “There's nothing better than planting and nurturing a tree.”

You can find more information on the Hillside Woods Restoration Project here.