Students creating prairie garden on plot near Urbana High
URBANA – On the corner of Race and Iowa streets, one little green space is starting to get an extreme makeover.
The space is owned by the Urbana school district, and ever so slowly, it will become a community learning space: the Urbana High School Prairie Garden.
Picture long, native grasses. Picture a literal timeline of plants found locally 12,000 years ago until now. Picture butterflies and hummingbirds flocking to flowers.
For the moment, though, it's only a pretty picture.
But students in the UHS advanced construction class began building that scene last week, starting at the plot's edges and putting in a sand-and-bricks retaining wall. "This is kind of phase one," said their instructor, Mike Martin, as he helped them measure and dig to the right depth to install the bricks. "They're learning landscaping and masonry and basic project planning."
And, according to several students, they're liking it.
"It's something different than, like, book work. I like working with my hands," said senior Daniel Messmann. "I actually like the teamwork, too. You're working as a team, so it's more like a job."
In the spring, students in the UHS environmental science class will take over for the semester. "They actually do the planning and the planting of the garden," Martin said. "The end goal for the project is to have a functional ... landscaping and gardening learning lab."
Martin, who also heads the school's FFA activities, helped conceive the garden, with help from UHS Principal Laura Taylor, district employee Randy Ashman and Jim Fay of the Grand Prairie Friends.
He said much of the garden has been left unplanned – ready for the students to step in and figure out.
Sophomore Trent Humes said the class is teaching him about welding and electricity, as well as construction – good preparation for the engineering career he wants. "We're learning all kinds of lessons," he said. "I learn more by doing than by being told."
He's also excited about working on such a visual, tangible project – and one with a community service angle.
"This is something that everyone can see us doing," he said. "And it'll help out the community."