Brandywine Middle School Senate, local company transform vacant courtyard

NILES — Less than two weeks ago, the courtyard on the north side of Brandywine Middle and High School was little more than grass and a few trees. But under the leadership of students in the Brandywine Middle School Senate and some generosity from a Niles company and their vendors, the grassy space is undergoing a huge transformation.

This Friday, students plan to debut the new courtyard which will feature a waterfall, pond and complete ecosystem where local plants and aquatic life are expected to thrive. 

David Roeder, a history teacher and advisor of the student senate, said the courtyard will provide more than a space to get some fresh air and sunshine.

“It could be used as a space for science classes to go out and do some observations and take samples,” Roeder said. “And other classes say English classes, will have a nice quiet spot to go out and read or teach a lesson out there.”

Brandywine High School has two courtyards. The one on the south side of the school has a gazebo and is a popular place for students to enjoy lunch during the warmer months. Senate students wanted to make use of the north side courtyard so that it too could be utilized by students. 

The students’ vision was a large one, and they would have likely had to spend months fundraising to make it happen. However when Upstream Waters Landscape, Inc. heard about the project, they decided to lend a hand.

The Niles company, located at 308 Bell Road, encouraged their vendors to donate about $7,000 in materials. For their part, the company donated about $10,000 in labor to help the students bring the idea to fruition.

The owner of Upstream, Kirk Wagner, worked with Roeder to design the courtyard, before presenting it to the student senate members. The Brandywine Community Schools board also approved the project and design.

Wagner said he saw a big opportunity to help local students through the donation.

“My hope is that this area will foster a love of learning and the outdoors, as well as guiding these students toward a demand in the landscape industry and STEM careers,” Wagner said in a letter to encourage a local vendor to donate to the cause.

Student senate members Haley Cherry, Garrett Stoneburner and Hayden Seggerman, have been working on the project since November. They said they were very grateful to the company and their vendors for contributing to the project.

“Thank you [Upstream],” Cherry said. “This would not have happened without them.”

The students said the project will make use of a formerly unused space, while providing a learning opportunity outside of the classroom for years to come.

“Some students need more of a visionary to see what they are learning, as opposed to reading a book or paper,” Seggerman said. “It [will be] easier for the hands-on learners to learn about the ecosystem.”

Once completed, members of the student senate will help to care for the courtyard with help from others who are interested. Wagner also developed a maintenance program and said he will continue to work with students to make the courtyard area mimic a natural water and wetland area.

Landscape workers from Upstream started working on the project about a week ago. On Monday, Matt Hiestand, Upstream’s general manager, worked alongside a crew to finish work on the pond. Hiestand said students are expected to lend a hand in the planting portion of the project later in the week.

Hiestand said the company was happy to contribute to something that will better the community.

“We just wanted to put one of our nice projects out there for a lot of people to enjoy,” Hiestand said, “so the kids can come out here and do some experiments and have something nice to look at, hear some running water. It’s pretty relaxing to be around a little waterfall.”

Berrien County

Two injured at Old U.S. 31 and Ullery

Berrien County

COVID-19 UPDATE: Berrien County reports additional COVID-19 death

Dowagiac

Dowagiac restaurateur arrested on criminal sexual conduct charges

Buchanan

Bike Buchanan pedals last ride of season

Buchanan

Caring Circle Services relocating to Niles

Dowagiac

SMC Board of Trustees devotes day to long-range planning

Cass County

Cass County COA celebrates veterans with online photo, story project

Berrien County

Salvation Army seeks volunteers for annual campaign

Buchanan

Buchanan Field of Dreams Dog Park gets 10 new trees

News

Niles gives marijuana consumption centers the green light

Berrien County

COVID-19 UPDATE: Michigan reports 164,274 cases, 7,239 deaths

Buchanan

Buchanan commissioners say goodbye to leaders, prepare for future

Dowagiac

Dowagiac receives USDA grant

Local Government

City council gives approval of funding for homeless aid, city administrator raise

Dowagiac

Dowagiac City Council encourages safe trick-or-treating

Dowagiac

Dowagiac Fire Department wins second straight Battle of The Badges blood drive

Berrien County

SMCAS seeks third wheelchair transport van

Dowagiac

Dowagiac Middle/Union High School report positive COVID-19 cases

Berrien County

COVID-19 UPDATE: Michigan reports 161,907 cases, 7,211 deaths

Cass County

Lewis Cass ISD superintendent announces retirement

Edwardsburg

DAR marks grave

Buchanan

Buchanan celebrates ‘Nicest Place in America’ honor Saturday

Dowagiac

Honor Credit Union gives back

News

MDHHS issues Emergency Order updating requirements for residential care facilities to allow for indoor visitation