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Students exercise green thumbs

Plenty of local high school students elect to take this class in particular.

Ron Smith’s four sections of environmental science have about 80 students currently enrolled at Haddonfield Memorial High School. The ever-popular course gives students a prime opportunity to affect their hometown in creative and sustainable ways.

“All of the students in the program are required to complete an environmental independent study in the second semester,” Smith said.

Some students work together.

In the case of seniors Jessie Cashman and Rachel Rosenthal, this spring will see work toward organic seeds and chicken eggs. The pair is working with Seeds of Change, which, according to its website, www.seedsofchange.com, grows seeds organically without the use of GMOs.

“We basically planned our project around selling organic seeds to the staff at our school,” Cashman said. “This would support the environment because they’re organic. We’ve gotten a lot of orders.”

Plus, Cashman and Rosenthal are looking forward to raising six young chickens for two weeks prior to Earth Day. They plan to feed them organic food and give them room to run in a fenced section of Cashman’s backyard.

“We’re focusing on locally and organically grown food,” Rosenthal said. “Chicken eggs are a big part of organic nutrition. If you raise the chickens organically, they will have organic eggs.”

After Earth Day, the search will be on for a local farm to continue raising the chickens, the girls said.

Juniors David Hessert and Nate Finnegan have teamed up to highlight the town’s honeybees.

“We’re doing our project on local, home beekeeping,” Hessert said. “Both of our dads got into it in the past couple of years.”

With beehives in their backyards, neither boy worries about getting bit.

“They’re pretty tame,” he said.

The duo hopes to raise awareness about the benefits of beekeeping.

“Honeybee populations in America and all over the world are just really declining,” Hessert said.

High losses began during the winter of 2006–2007, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. There are many reasons, including new or emerging diseases, bee management stress and poor nutrition.

In addition, clover, which is usually treated as a weed, is helpful for the bees and has ecologically benefits by pollinating other plants, Finnegan said.

The students in Smith’s classes gravitate toward the class through positive word of mouth and have endless opportunities for their projects. Some students continue their projects after the school year ends, dependent on the project, Smith said.

“The kids that do take the class want to take the class,” he said.

Sometimes, the course fills to 100 students in a year.

The program began in 2001 and quickly had the service piece added, which allows students to make a difference out of the classroom, he said.

The young environmentalists update their teacher periodically to make sure everything is moving along smoothly. At the end of the year, a detailed report is submitted.

By the end of the school year, there is an impact to be felt in Haddonfield.

“(The students) do something small here locally that will be important for the community and the region,” Smith said.

Visit environmental-club.haddonfield.site.eboard.com for a listing of online resources on helping the environment.

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