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.”
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