By Doug Ireland
---- — KINGSTON — Sanborn Regional High School students proved yesterday that teenagers really can make the world — and Powwow Pond — a better place.
With shovels and rakes in hand, approximately 180 sophomores planted rain gardens and created vegetation buffers around the pond.
The students spent nearly three hours digging, planting and removing brush from six homeowners’ properties. The Conservation Commission and area businesses donated the plants and materials, including mulch.
The goal was to learn about the pond’s ecological importance and to prevent it from becoming polluted by fertilizers, road salt and waste that could harm water quality and habitat, according to science teacher Dan Smith.
Nutrients in fertilizer and storm runoff can spur growth of invasive species such as milfoil, which destroys other plants, he said.
“We’re trying to slow it down so it doesn’t carry in the nutrients,” Smith said. “There is milfoil in here that is tough to get rid of.”
It was a unique, hands-on learning experience for his science students, he said.
The school’s English and social studies teachers also incorporated their classwork into the study of the pond, including reading about Walden Pond and learning about environmental law.
“The best thing is the kids learned a lot,” Smith said. “They really got their hands dirty.”
Kingston Conservation Commission member Evelyn Nathan and Powwow Pond Council member Diane Coll met with the students a month ago to explain the history of the pond and the dangers its faces.
Two weeks later, the students collected water, plant and soil samples to analyze in the classroom, testing for nitrogen, phosphorus and dissolved oxygen, Smith said.
The students agreed participating in the outdoor project on a sunny day was more enjoyable than sitting in the classroom.
“It was way better,” said Caitlyn Epstein, 17, of Newton.
Nathan said the students’ efforts will help improve the pond’s health.
“It’s fantastic, I couldn’t be more pleased,” Nathan said. “The students designed the goals and the solutions to the runoff problem.”
Brenda Bourgeois was one of the six homeowners whose properties benefited from the project.
The students planted a beautiful garden that would absorb storm runoff. They also cleaned out shrubs and replaced them with silky dogwood and Virginia rose plants.
“The whole project is great for the high school students and the homeowners, too,” Bourgeois said.
When the morning ended, the students boarded their school bus with a feeling of satisfaction.
“I learned that hard work really does pay off,” said Amanda Arsenault, 16, of Fremont.
But Amanda paid the price, showing numerous cuts and scratches she received while clearing brush.
For Nick Sciacca, 16, of Newton, it was rewarding to see how he and his classmates could make a difference.
“It was pretty cool,” he said. “You can drive by and say, ‘I did that.’”
Ethan Johnson, 16, of Newton said he learned a lot about the pond while discovering he, too, could help out.
It was surprising how we were able to take a shrubbery area that looked like a mess and make it a nice one,” he said. “I didn’t realize how much could be done by the runoff and what we could do. It was a lot of work, but it was worth it.”