The following article appeared in the April8-14, 2004 issue of the Avon Grove Sun.
Fred. S. Engle Middle School hosts 'Smartyards' program
"Smartyards" is a visual reminder to people that they can do something that positively impacts the watershed and the environment."
- Linda Stapleford, White Clay Watershed Management Committee
Smart kids and Smartyards' make a winning combination.
By Karen Busby
Fred S. Engle Middle School has been invited to participate in a special project sponsored by the White Clay Wild and Scenic River program. "Smartyards" is a program through which a natural habitat of Pennsylvania native plants, animal feeders and walkways will be created on the school grounds. The benefits are twofold: first, it will offer ongoing "hands on" environmental educational opportunities for students and the local community and second to create and maintain an environment with positive impact on the local watershed. The program is funded through a grant by the National Park Service, the Wild and Scenic River Program and the E. Kneale Dockstader Foundation and administered by the Delaware Nature Society and White Clay Creek Watershed Management Committee.
'Smartyards' is being spearheaded by 7th grade Language Arts teacher Janet Donegan. Donegan is also the mentor for the school's Envirothon program and was the impetus behind the school's butterfly garden. Due to renovations on the school, the butterfly garden was removed. Coincidentally, Linda Stapleford of the White Clay Watershed Management Committee had contacted Principal Tom Alexander to see if there was any interest in participating in the 'Smartyards' program. Alexander and Donegan jumped at the, opportunity and had what Alexander calls "the perfect spot" for it just as you near the school's entrance, just outside of the cafeteria.
"The public can see it and appreciate it and it will be-here for at least 5 years," said Alexander.
Stapleford said in a phone interview that she is excited have FSEMS on board for the program. 'Smartyards' is a visual reminder to people that they can do something that positively impacts the watershed and the environment'' she said
"We wanted public sites like FSEMS so we could impact more people ... One person won't change things, but collectively we can make a difference."
Stapleford said the 'Smartyards' program is being implemented in 10 homes in the Hills of Sullivan subdivision in London Grove Township and in another middle school in New Castle County. She is hopeful that others will learn to appreciate the beauty of native landscapes after seeing the 'Smartyards' and adopt them voluntarily.
Alexander, Donegan and several students and their families spent April 3 digging and planting in the first phase of the development of their 'Smartyard'. The Diehle family, the Gardner family, Christine Giusti, Kai Muller, Allison and Rachel Donley. and John Hall joined Donegan and Alexander.
The "Smartyards" program provides a one-time grant of $400 to the school in return for their commitment to participate as a 'Smartyard' for 5 years. Donegan designed the garden herself in concert with Lovett Watts, a consultant with the Delaware Nature Society. Donegan said they have invested in numerous Pennsylvania native plants including sweet pepper bush, butterfly, milkweed, white fox glove beard tongue, great blue lobelia, swamp milkweed, black eyed Susans, cut leaf coneflower, white fringe tree and the sassafras tree. Donegan said the school has long wanted to plant a sassafras tree because it smells like root beer and has three kinds of leaves.
"In the future, we'd like to add an ornamental dogwood, some native ground cover and native grasses," she said. They have some benches, birdfeeders and a bird bath which they will install in the coming weeks.
The school is still looking for, donators of "time, treasures and talent" she said. Alexander would like a boulder or two to round out the 'Smartyard'.