Lithia Park and East Main Street are a little bit cleaner — and greener — today thanks to 200 small hands that worked to remove invasive ivy and trash from the Ashland sites, in honor of Earth Day.
Students at Ashland's John Muir School toiled all morning in Ashland's largest park and on one of the city's busiest streets, as the children celebrated the environment and learned how to preserve it.
"I think after this, they will just have a renewed awareness and responsibility for their surroundings and an appreciation of life that happens outside the classroom," said Pat Scalo, who teaches kindergarten through second-grade at the school.
The oldest students at the school, seventh- and eighth-graders, picked up trash on East Main Street while the other students, in kindergarten through sixth-grade, plucked ivy from Lithia Park.
On Tuesday, the kids spent much of the morning pulling weeds and planting flowers in the school's courtyard, used as an outdoor classroom. That day the children also celebrated the birthday of their school's namesake, John Muir.
"One of the things that we have studied is his work in conservation," Scalo said. "We want to take responsibility for taking care of our place and to teach the children about taking care of their environments."
The students, with their dirty hands and sweaty brows, learned about all that goes into gardening, she said.
"Even as they are weeding right now, they're noticing dragonflies and larvae and even a big gopher who stuck his head up a minute ago," Scalo said.
The children, who were enthusiastically pulling weeds and stirring compost, said the project helped them to better appreciate the earth.
"I think because John Muir wanted to take care of the earth, I also want to do that and make the earth a better place for kids," 12-year-old Dominique Moore said.
Several of the children acknowledged that there is much work still to be done to preserve the environment for future generations.
"Because if there was no earth, we wouldn't be here," 7-year-old Will Beaudoin said. "I'm planting trees because if there were no trees people wouldn't be alive, because trees make oxygen."
Earth Day is "not always a holiday, because it's not always happy, but it's certainly very important," added Aidan Locklin, 11.
Some of the children said they were inspired by their school's namesake and the environmental work he did.
"I've been gardering — I mean gardening," said 5-year-old Gabriel Schaeffer-Giancarlo, "and putting flowers into the garden. It's really fun. John Muir is the name of our school and it's just really fun to be like John Muir."
Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or email@example.com.