PHS Research Program students learned valuable lessons recently, while also introducing new garden beds and a shed to campus.
Students first dealt with several new raised garden beds, graciously donated by Send Hunger Packing Princeton (SHUPP). Due to erosion and compacted soil, the garden beds were unstable. Fortunately, students found a sustainable solution: they rebuilt the beds and repurposed wood from old shipping pallets to provide the needed support.
SHUPP also donated a new shed which provides necessary storage of supplies and tools for research and environmental classes; however, students quickly realized that the ground for the shed was not level. To overcome this hurdle, students removed plants and added gravel. They explained, “we had limited materials, which caused us to develop a creative solution to problems, including using wooden pallets to build a base for the shed.”
The students were offered a limited space on campus for this project, so they removed Japanese barberry bushes to make room for the shed base. “This was useful,” students noted “as these plants often host breeding grounds for rats and mice (which is connected to higher Lyme disease rates).” In addition, Japanese barberry is an invasive species. “By removing these shrubs,” students continue, “we were able to remove a dangerous plant from the environment.”
This project is the first step in developing a multi-tiered food source and a basis for future research. Currently, students are using this area to study the relationship between soil systems and human use, as well as a project looking at using minimal material resources to engineer structures. Future research will involve using the gardens to study differences between macro and micro food scale production, and to develop readily available food sources for our school community.
Jim Smirk, Science Teacher at Princeton High School, oversaw this project and described his plans for the future. “We will be turning some unused grass spaces into a mini grassland or ecological growth area with flowers and tall grasses. This will cut down on mowing to help reduce carbon emissions, serve as a bio-preserve for insects and birds, and an outdoor learning lab for students.”
Princeton Public Schools wishes to thank Justin’s Tree Service, who donated the woodchips from locally cut trees (since they were close to our school); Send Hunger Packing Princeton, who donated the shed, garden bed building materials, and the soil; and the Princeton Municipal Public Works Department, who gave the gravel base for leveling the shed. We were fortunate to have community partnerships to help out, reducing our carbon footprint and theirs.
First, PHS environmental science students assessed the conditions of the garden beds, measured the area in which the shed was to be built in, and developed a plan to transport woodchips across the school.
On Day 2, the shed was completely built, from base to roof. Students worked in rotating teams throughout the day to get the project to completion. They also fixed the garden beds through shifting sides closer to each other and adding triangular wood supports to counteract the pressure of the soil within the bed.
On Day 3, students wrapped up the project. All of the garden beds were completely fixed. Woodchips were transported to the chicken coops and the garden area.