When winter turns to spring, kids' minds tend to stray from the classroom and toward the warm weather outside.
Michelle Joubert, a sixth-grade science teacher at Nettle Middle School, has found a way to keep her students thinking while embracing the arrival of spring.
She has brought her classroom outside.
For the last two weeks, about 100 of Joubert's students have gone outside during their class time to work at improving their environment. The students have picked up trash and done mulching, among other tasks.
"We are trying to make (Nettle) a role model for other schools," said sixth-grader Acacia Simmons. "We're learning about how we can make the environment around us better.''
The work that the students are doing outside coincides with the environmental science portion of their curriculum, as well as Earth Day in April. Joubert took the chance at giving the children a better opportunity to learn than they would have sitting in the classroom.
"This project just lends itself to do something that is more hands on," said Joubert. "Reading and writing is wonderful. But when they can apply what they do outside to their writing pieces, I imagine that their writing is going to be a heck of a lot better."
After the children do their outside activities, they generally write up a lab report the next day in the classroom or have a group discussion about what they learned.
Joubert said that in the two weeks since they've been outside, the students have filled more than 200 small bags with trash. Some of the items she and the students have found littered on school property have been stunning, she said.
"It's been disgusting," said sixth-grader Noelia Romero. "We definitely found more trash than I expected to.''
The children found several bags of trash dumped in the woods behind the school. There was dog feces in a plastic bag, as well as a bag with several empty beer cans. There was even a broken television.
"They're disgusted by the fact that you clean something one day and then three days later you come back and it's completely dirty again," Joubert said. "It's becoming a dumping ground. We hope that if we clean the area up and make it look nice, then maybe people will think twice before they dump trash on it."
In addition to picking up trash, the kids gathered branches into a large pile. City workers came last week and made the branches into wood chips. The kids then used them as mulch to improve the path between Nettle and the neighboring Golden Hill School.
"This is recycling at its best," Joubert said of the mulch. "Otherwise it would just go into a landfill, but we are deciding to use it."
Joubert said they also hope to use the recycled mulch to rototill several areas outside the school and make a rock garden, as well as put some mulch around trees near the front of the school. But with the environmental science curriculum ending and as ticks and poison ivy begin to show up in the woods, the kids ended their clean-up just prior to going on school vacation this week.