Last week, 15 students from Old Rochester Regional High School volunteered to help the Mattapoisett Land Trust restore an overgrown blueberry patch. The students – all members of either the Community Service Learning club (CSL) or the Environmental Club – were dismissed early on November 5 to work with the Land Trust.
“Each student was given work gloves, a MLT volunteer t-shirt, and a task to complete,” said Ellen Flynn, a member of the Mattapoisett Land Trust. The main job was to clear away branches and wood chips in between the rows of blueberry bushes.
“It was totally overgrown when it was purchased by the Land Trust,” said Mary Cabral, a teacher at ORR and advisor for CSL. After being untreated for many years, white pines and maple trees had grown throughout the 1,500 blueberry bushes on the land. These trees were cut down and chipped, leaving debris between the bushes that needed to be cleared. Still, Cabral said the blueberry patch was “an amazing piece of property.”
The space surrounding the approximately 680 bushes had already been cleared by the Land Trust, and the ORR students helped to continue these efforts. For about an hour, the students used rakes and wheelbarrows to clear the debris to the outskirts of the property. Flynn described the student volunteers as “wonderfully willing and hardworking.”
Healthy snacks were provided when it was time for a break. “One young student had never had a blueberry, so that was a perfect segue for Director Mike Huguenin to begin his brief discussion regarding the North American blueberry, the genus Vaccinium, its characteristics and history,” Flynn said.
Huguenin, also a member of the Mattapoisett Land Trust, gave a short presentation on the process of soil testing. “He talked about the pH levels and how an application of humic acid needed to be added to the soil,” Flynn said. Huguenin also demonstrated the proper method of collecting soil samples using a specific digging tool. He explained how one must take samples from different areas around the property in order to get a complete analysis.
“The students seemed very engaged whenever any one of us addressed them or was giving instruction,” recalled Flynn, who said she was pleased with the event. “There is so much to share and so much to learn from each other.”
Cabral and Lynn Connor, a teacher at ORR and advisor for Environmental Club, both expressed positive opinions about the volunteer work. “It worked out really well,” noted Cabral, saying she hopes the clubs will work with the Mattapoisett Land Trust again in the future.
After all, there is still plenty of work left to do with the blueberry patch restoration project. After clearing the space between the rows of bushes, the Land Trust plans to plant new blueberry bushes as well. “I explained to the group that many community members have donated money to buy a blueberry bush in their name or in the name of a loved one, and an ultimate goal will be that in two to three years people will be picking blueberries free on this well- preserved piece of land,” said Flynn.
With the help of ORR volunteers and others in the community, this goal is within sight. As an added bonus, this volunteer trip helped to establish an educational outreach between the high school and the Mattapoisett Land Trust. ORR Environmental Science teacher Laura Jean Champagne hopes to bring in guest speakers from the Land Trust, and possibly get her students to work hands on at the Land Trust properties as well.
In other news, the CSL club would like to send out a “thank you” to all of the families who donated costumes to their Halloween costume drive. CSL would also like to thank the elementary schools in the ORR district for organizing the costume drive at their locations.
In total, CSL collected about 170 Halloween costumes. While some costumes went to students in the Tri-Town, the majority of donations went to Gifts to Give.
“One hundred and seventy children in the New Bedford area got costumes because of the generosity of [the] Old Rochester district,” Cabral said.
As the holiday season rolls in, ORR hopes to keep this generous spirit high. National Honor Society will be starting their annual Thanksgiving canned goods collection this week. Donation boxes will be placed in the students’ homerooms. After Thanksgiving, the CSL will be starting their second annual Toys for Tots collection. The students of ORR are showing their generosity more and more as the year progresses.
By Renae Reints