Environmental ingenuity leads Shaler Area students to honor

| Wednesday, June 12, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Shaler Area High School students are taking their green thumbs out into the community and being recognized for their efforts.

Student again won first place for their environmental action plan and second place overall in the Fairchild Challenge at Phipps, a yearlong environmental competition.

More than 50 students participated in a series of “challenges” for the competition between September and May.

“Everybody found their niche and participated in what they found most interesting and fit their interests and talents,” said Christina Palladino, high school gifted and talented education, or GATE, teacher who sponsored the participating students.

Students concentrated their environmental action plan to benefit the environment at students' homes, the school and the community.

A group of freshmen organized a program on the monarch butterfly for 28 fourth-grade GATE students to teach them about conservation and how to grow butterfly gardens at home. The students then created a monarch way station at the high school.

Marnie Potter, a junior, also involved the life-skills students in the Fairchild Challenge project by having them create stepping stones for around the high school greenhouse and planting flowers in decorated pots to take home.

“I thought it was so great to get them involved,” Potter said. “(This) is a pretty big project in the GATE room, but to get the life-skills kids involved is great. It's them leaving their mark on the greenhouse.”

Students also focused on the community by preparing and planting an 1840s-period herb and vegetable garden at the historic Lightner House in Shaler and planting produce in the community gardens in Etna to benefit the residents and the borough's food pantries.

Matt Everett, a senior, worked in the greenhouse to grow seedlings last year and this year and took his skills to Etna to plant the seedlings he had helped grow.

“It was cool to talk to them (people in the borough) to see how what we were doing was affecting others,” Everett said.

Last year, the students' efforts yielded 600 pounds of produce for food pantries and residents.

“Shaler has had been incredibly innovative in their environmental action (plan),” said Kate Borger, high school program coordinator at Phipps Conservatory. “They have gone outside of their school and working in their school … they have also gone into their community.

“We ask for environmental action to be more than the home and school community, but theirs has really reached a lot of people.”

Students already are making plans to continue their efforts next year. They plan to continue to volunteer at the Garden of Etna; and Andrew Hyatt, a junior, is working on organizing phase two for the Lightner House garden.

“I think there is a definite volunteerism and community spirit that is exciting,” Palladino said. “Every year they come up with more exciting projects, more involved projects and they're excited about it.”

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or bhofstetter@tribweb.com.

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