A Service Learning Day at Spades Park

Organizing a service learning day is not easy to do. Coordination can be complicated, especially if you are working with multiple partners. Then you've got Mother Nature coming into play with unpredictable weather. But the rewards of spending a day outside, getting your hands dirty, are immeasurable, and worth any effort in implementing.

Case in point, our recent service learning day at Spades Park. This idea initially came from Dawn Corbin, a science teacher at CFI #2. Dawn and a team of 8th graders are involved in an annual middle school project called: IMAGINE: Students for Global and Local Action. This project-based learning experience brings middle school students together from around central Indiana to solve complex issues with innovation and service ideas. This year's inquiry is around carbon emissions, and why there's so much more CO2 in the atmosphere.

So the CFI #2 kids wanted to study the idea of invasive species: how do they get here, why do they flourish, and what do we do about them. I connected CFI #2 to Indy's Department of Public Works' Land Stewardship experts, Don Miller and Jacob Brinkman for ideas, and it was a natural next step to reach out to my friends at Salesforce to add to our team.

One of my favorite experiences of 2016 was the day Earth Charter Indiana planted dozens of trees with Salesforce's Earthforce team. You can read about that here.

Salesforce, always looking for ways to make their community thrive, said yes, and so we were off and running for a great day outside. I'll step aside to let the photos do the talking, but let me know if you have an idea for a service learning opportunity, I'd be glad to help!

 Gabe, Miles, Abby and Lucy, from CFI #2, with Don Miller from Indy Parks

Gabe, Miles, Abby and Lucy, from CFI #2, with Don Miller from Indy Parks

To warm up, we picked up trash from around Spades Park. Mayor Joe Hogsett recently launched the #ItsMyCity campaign that features multiple stages to clean, green and beautify Indianapolis. A great and simple way to claim your city is to pick up the detritus of human consumption and neglect. And boy did the kids bag a bunch of neglect!

Next project was to plant trees. CFI #2 and Salesforce planted around 60 trees along Pogue's Run waterway, Spice bush and Paw-paw:

 Don Miller from DPW's Land Stewardship instructs in the fine art of planting trees.

Don Miller from DPW's Land Stewardship instructs in the fine art of planting trees.

 Abby and Lucy plant a tree.

Abby and Lucy plant a tree.

Next project: Spread seeds along Pogue's Run to cut down on erosion. The team spread a wheelbarrow full of Virginia wild rye along a 1000-foot stretch.

Then, if that wasn't enough fun, we began to tackle invasives — of course there is no shortage of honeysuckle, so the kids grabbed loppers and got to work.

 The CFI #2 and Salesforce team, posing after the service learning day.

The CFI #2 and Salesforce team, posing after the service learning day.

A final step, above, was a visit to pay homage to the Mother Tree near Spades Park, a fitting end to our great day outdoors working in nature restoration.

A final remark: There are days — every day, in fact — where I am overwhelmed by the work required to restore the balance between humans and nature. From politics to climate denial to humanity's bad habits, there seems to be no way we can rectify the impact of consumption and pollution. A service learning day addresses the feeling of hopelessness by creating action.

So next time you are feeling overwhelmed, go on and get outside. It can be as simple as picking up litter.

 

 

 

Jim Poyser