Outdoor education students from HJ Cody are cleaning up an area of the tree stand between the high school and the trail. Photographed is a a small path that cuts through the trees that the students intend to to lay down wood chips to make it a safer walking experience. (Photo by Megan Roth/Sylvan Lake News)

Outdoor education students from HJ Cody are cleaning up an area of the tree stand between the high school and the trail. Photographed is a a small path that cuts through the trees that the students intend to to lay down wood chips to make it a safer walking experience. (Photo by Megan Roth/Sylvan Lake News)

Sylvan Lake outdoor ed class pivots curriculum to clean up tree stand

High school students are cleaning up an area of the tree stand by the school as part of outdoor ed

Outdoor education looks very different this year. With the absence of camping and hunting activities students in the outdoor education class at H.J. Cody needed a new way to learn about the outdoors.

Linda Wagers, outdoor ed teacher at the high school, developed a landscaping curriculum to get her students outside, and teach them a new skill that will be useful in their life.

The students are currently learning about urban forestry as they work to clean up a section of the tree band between the high school and the walking path.

Partnering with the parks department at the Town of Sylvan Lake, students are being taught identification of plant life, pruning trees, sod installation, identifying healthy trees, and the planting of annual plants and 40 spruce trees.

“I needed to find something to do, and preferably outside,” said Wagers. “Kids who sign up for this class don’t do it to sit inside and be lectured on theory, they want to be outside doing hands out things.”

Wagers chose a landscaping-based curriculum after seeing the poor shape the tree stand near the school is in.

She said there are a large number of trees that are dead and rotting from the inside out, as well as a lot of garbage and dry undergrowth scattered through the area.

The students, with the help of staff from the Town, will be marking and cutting down some of the trees that have been deemed dangerous.

“There are a number of dead trees in this area that are dead and just honestly a hazard. A good strong wind could knock them over and if someone was walking through then it could really hurt them,” said Wagers.

The trees may seem healthy because they are still producing green leaves, but Wagers, who holds a bachelor of science degree in biology, says poplars are known for dying from the inside out, which allows the trees to still grow leaves each year.

Wagers says she is teaching her students how to identify dead and dying trees.

“You can tell by the way the branches have grown, if there are any deformities on the bark, if it sounds hollow when knock or kick it and when it sways when you push against it.”

Lee Furlotte, parks manager with the Town, says his department is partnering with the class to help teach best practices to students when it comes to landscaping and urban forestry.

Nothing that is healthy and living is being removed from the tree belt, Furlotte says.

“Projects and partnerships like this are a wonderful source of learning and help for the Town,” said Furlotte. “I hope this will continue for years to come.”

Wagers says in cleaning up the garbage from the area, she has been shocked what her students have uncovered.

Everything from bags of garbage to broken toys and numerous cigarette butts.

“It is like people just back their truck up against the trees and throw their trash into them. There is no respect there,” said Wagers.

So far, the students in the class have enjoyed cleaning up the area and learning about how to properly take care of trees and other plant life.

Furlotte said it is wonderful to see the students excited to lend a hand.

“The level of excitement from the students is tremendous. In years past we have partnered with the school to plant trees, but it has never really expanded beyond that, so it is just great to see them eager to clean up the area,” said Furlotte.

“We want to make this area clean and safe for everyone who uses it,” said Wagers.

The idea to clean up of the tree stand began in early March, and the landscaping program will extend to the end of the school year.