By Althea Hogle
Times are strange. Covid-19 is here and is quickly changing our society right before our eyes. It’s a matter of fact that has affected each and every one of us differently. There is nothing like a pandemic to show you what is not sustainable in our lives. While it is an interesting time to generally be a human on this planet… It is an especially interesting time to be an Energy Corps service member. I serve a school district that is grappling to just teach the very basic grade level curriculum in order to get the students to next year. Remote learning has proven difficult for students, teachers, and parents. So much so that pushing “sustainability” lessons seems like the least “sustainable” option for this school district in this time.
I have struggled to find a steady pace with my service given the situation. However, in these dark times there is always the hope for the future. What we do today will influence tomorrow, next week, next month, next year and dang… the next decade too! As Energy Corps service members, we operate on a time specific contract, yet have the hope and the responsibility to get things done for America during that short window of time. Now more than ever, I find myself asking the question “ what can I do today that will have the greatest impact?”
Over the last month of uncertainty due to social distancing, school closures and scary news around every corner…I have turned to the plants for solace. With students and teachers absent from the Center for Sustainability and Entrepreneurship there is time to create a solid foundation for educational programming when the students return. Many projects that have needed TLC have not had the time nor human resources to be completed. I suppose a silver lining of this mess is that now we have all the time in the world.
I will speak to two projects that have brought some light into the world during this less than enjoyable time.
The first was a plant giveaway to the Whitefish School District staff. Tomato and pepper plants were started with the intent for an Earth Day plant sale that never happened due to the pandemic. We decided to use them to show our appreciation for our school district employees, who have been working tirelessly to keep us all afloat. By giving the tomato and pepper starts we hoped to give them a much needed break that allowed them to reground and spend some time with their hands in the soil. Gardening has always been touted as a relaxing recreational activity that can provide great personal rewards. During this time, when many people are working from home and students are learning at home, gardening can be a positive family-inclusive activity. This is ever so important in this time, not only for our bodily needs, but for our soul and hearts.
Remote schooling is new for most all students in our community. Hands-on activities like gardening can encourage children to participate in a way that will enhance learning. Gardening can teach young, preschool- and elementary-aged children, to reinforce skills such as measurements, addition, subtraction, counting, sorting into categories and colors. Practicing motor skills and learning work ethic are also life skills taught through gardening. From a mental aspect, growing a vegetable garden may be a way for adults and children to cope with boredom and help families gain a sense of security. Additionally, growing food at home can reinforce nutritional education while reducing trips to the grocery store. Our plant give away was well received by many of the staff. Although we were not able to come together for Earth Day activities, we were so happy to support WSD families in enjoying the great (and safe) outdoor activity of gardening.
The next large project we have accomplished over the last few weeks was planting 41 fruit trees on the grounds of the CSE. Varieties ranged from pear, plumb, apple, crab apple, and currants. Over time, these trees will grow to provide pollinator habitat, species diversity, shade, and fruit, along with beauty and enjoyment for all at the CSE. I am proud to know that I helped plant for the future during my time as an Energy Corps Service Member.
When in doubt, plant trees and try to dance a little while you do it.