ST. ALBANS CITY — Students from St. Albans City School braved the bluster of a September morning to open a new half-mile walking path at the school, one that – just in time for its commemoration – also offers a learning experience about the St. Albans Raid.
“We wanted to get a path so we can access the other parts of our land,” explained seventh grader Jacob Benware, a member of the school’s land committee.
“We are here to celebrate the future,” Benware told his fellow students and community members who had gathered for the ribbon cutting.
The school owns 30 acres, a fact that made this project possible.
Mayor Liz Gamache told the students they are leaders in the St. Albans community. “You have ideas. You see possibilities and opportunities and you make them happen,” she said.
Gamache praised the students for walking and biking to school. As many as 60 city school students now bike to school. “You’re teaching us and leading us” to be healthier and take care of the planet by reducing greenhouse gases from vehicles, Gamache said.
Plans for the land include a Christmas tree farm and maple sugar grove. With the path, “we will now be able to observe the Christmas tree farm and maple tree grove among other projects,” said seventh grader Maya Perrault.
There are markers along the path built by students from the Rosie’s Girls summer camp. Students in the camp work with city school teacher Erica Bertucci to learn construction and building skills. One of the markers is portable and the others are permanent.
Currently, the markers feature information about the St. Albans Raid, but the markers are changeable. Walkers have the option of scanning a code on the markers with their phone that will take them to an audio file with the same information, making it possible to listen while walking.
The path was completed over the summer with $26,000 in funding from several sources including Berlin City Auto Group, Vermont Department of Health Wellness Awards for 2012 and 2013, Fuel Up to Play 60, and the Northwest Regional Planning Committee Healthy People, Strong Communities grant.
“Almost everybody has 15 minutes during the day where they take a break and walk the path,” said Cavallo.
The school is working to secure funding for an addition to the path through a two-acre wetland at the school, according to Principal Joan Cavallo. They are hoping to restore the wetland and build an elevated path through it, opening the area for study and observation by the students.
The wetland, maple grove and Christmas tree farm are among the stewardship projects adopted by each of the school’s learning communities.
Last year students tapped trees in the maple grove, but used former pickle buckets. Despite scrubbing, the syrup still had a hint of pickle in it, said Cavallo. The school is applying for $800 in grants for sugaring equipment.
More challenging for the students are the invasive species in the grove. Students are currently researching how to effectively remove them, explained Cavallo.
The learning community in charge of the Christmas tree farm are having to revisit their plans in order to come up with an approach that doesn’t involve more mowing by school staff, explained Cavallo. “We bring maintenance problems back to the kids,” she said.
Students from the Incredibles, a grade four to six community, designed and built a butterfly garden last year. When staff couldn’t easily mow around the garden, which is shaped like a butterfly, the students created edging, which they now must keep free of weeds.
An outdoor classroom with a number of raised gardens is still in progress. Students will be building benches to go with a table made from an old blackboard.
The stewardship projects have all been paid for with grant funds. “We produce results for the people who give us money,” said Cavallo.