Local Students Take Over for a Day in South Hero
“Community Service Means Helping the Community Become a Better Place”
What is community service? It’s “getting your hands dirty and doing things to help other people,” “helping people who don’t have as much as you or helping fix things that are broken,” and “helping the environment.” It is a “chance to give back to your community.” These are just a few of the responses that students at Folsom Education & Community Center gave after their fall Day of Service.
Busy classroom schedules make it difficult for kids to spend time out in the world, whether exploring nature or working in their community. The middle school teachers at Folsom School at are committed to changing that in South Hero. They are using community service to help students gain skills in problem solving and collaboration, while being stewards of their environment, and building deeper connections to the land and their community.
50 students, in grades 5-8, wrapped up a celebration of the new school year with an afternoon of projects that will help make their community a better place for all. From building a new bridge at Round Pond Natural Area, to gleaning watermelon and other vegetables at Pomykala Farm, the students were living examples of Folsom’s three expectations: take care of yourself, take care of others, and take care of your community.
Their teachers were awed by the students’ accomplishments. As Julie Pidgeon wrote, “it was amazing to see so many of them take ownership of their jobs.... the kids came away feeling like they had contributed in a meaningful way.”
Feeding the Hungry with the Help of Pomykala Farm
Several of the students headed up to Pomykala Farm to glean with the Healthy Roots Collaborative. They harvested over 1,000 lbs of watermelon, lettuce, and parsley that was not up to market quality, but was perfectly fresh and healthy to eat. The produce was donated to the Champlain Islands Food Shelf, the CIDER senior meals program, and three charitable food sites in Franklin County (continued on page 23).
Jane Pomykala, who farms at Pomykala Farm with her husband Bob and son Ben, says that, “gleaning is an ideal way for us to give back, because it helps people who are going hungry get some food, and it doesn’t hurt our business. It can even help a little. We love seeing the kids getting to work with their hands and connecting with the dirt... we love having kids come out and experience what it’s like to work with their hands, know where their food comes from, and provide food for their community.”
Trail Building Helps Our Whole Community Get Outside
Two groups of students spent the afternoon on the trail. At Round Pond Natural Area students replaced a foot bridge that had begun to rot. As community volunteer Peter Zamore said, “it’s great to see Folsom students working together outside of the classroom, and learning hand-on basics about carpentry skills, trail maintenance, and maintaining the natural surroundings.” Students measured, cut, drilled, and assembled a new foot bridge near where the trail ends on the shore of Lake Champlain.
The rest of the trail building students headed to the Water Wigglers Trail behind Folsom School, and cleared a overgrown sections of the boardwalk and nature trail, opening it up for students and families to use this year.
Putting the Garden to Bed Before Winter
The final group of students worked in the Folsom Community Garden. They weeded, topped off beds with compost donated by Canamak Farms, and planted a few fall crops: carrots, kale, radishes, and turnips. South Hero Land Trust Director Emily Alger reported great teamwork. “I was so impressed to see students who garden at home helping teach the others how to shake soil off of the roots of plants being weeded and how to cover strawberries with straw to protect from winter chills. Everyone worked hard to get the garden ready for fall.”
The students walked away with a clear sense of civic participation and pride, knowing that they can help create the community that they want to live in. South Hero Land Trust can’t wait to work with them on more projects in the future!
Many thanks to Rob Swanson for taking these and many other great photographs of the students during the community service day this fall.
Written by Emily Alger, September 2017