Community Trail Project

Community Trail Project

Rising Sun Middle School, 6th & 7th Grades, Cecil County, Connie Kalista,

Approximately 100 Rising Sun Middle School 6th & 7th graders went to the Rising Sun Community Center to help make a new community trail. After the roads crew dug a trench for the new walking trail around the center, students helped finish the trail by first spreading newspapers on the path. The roads crew had placed piles of stone in various areas along the trail which the students spread out on top of the newspapers. When the students had used up all of the pre-placed stone piles, they had to hand cart in more stone using wheel barrows for the remaining, uncovered portions of the trail. It was hard but rewarding work.

Best Practice 1: What recognized community need was met by your project (e.g. health, education, environmental or public safety need)?
The beautiful, new walking trail provides residents around the area with a safe place to exercise thereby promoting good health, as well as environmental appreciation. Before the development of this trail, most residents did their exercising along the streets of Rising Sun. The trail is a much safer, serene place to exercise. The trail is located very near community tennis courts, a playground area, and baseball fields, so community members should make good use of it.

Our school learned about this community need when we were contacted by Kim Youngblood, our Cecil County service-learning coordinator, who had been speaking with Cindy Cantor of Cecil Parks and Recreation. Cindy said she would like to build the trail and wanted to involve the children of that area in its development.

The students who worked on the trail were very enthusiastic because it was a project they could relate to and they could take real community pride in their work. Many spend a lot of time at the trail.

Best Practice 2: How was the project connected to school curriculum (e.g. what course outcomes were met and/or how did the project reinforce or enhance student academic learning)?
Students used their math and science skills to figure out how much stone and paper was needed and used on the trail. Students also met language arts goals by writing letters to community partners. Most importantly, students used team building or Baldrige practices to work together and accomplish their goal.

Two 8th grader students acted as our videographers and photographers. Their work has been placed on our school’s website.

Best Practice 3: How did you reflect on your experience throughout the project?
Students wrote thank-you notes to the different community based organizations that helped us. We produced a log book with the pictures of our work and the signatures of everyone that helped with the project. We brainstormed to see how we could improve and enhance the project in the future. Some ideas that resulted from that brainstorm session included creating benches along the trail, planting appropriate plans, and building birdhouse to attract wildlife. We plan to partner with North Bay on these project extensions.

Best Practice 4: How did students take leadership roles and take responsibility for the success of the project?
These kids were amazing! The students who were working on this project were the children who were not allowed to attend the Hershey Park Amusement Park field trip because they had not achieved the required grades to participate in the trip. So while their peers headed for a day at an amusement park, they headed out for a day of giving back. Many of the students involved were children that are very motivated by “hands on” projects. They don’t usually like sitting in a classroom all day. At the project site, they were in their element. Some students took charge of their group and assumed the leadership position. What was most notable though was the team building exhibited. In the strong groups, students took turns taking leadership roles. They did this effortlessly. In a school setting, I would say that would not typically happen.

The original plan was to take 6th grader students in the morning and the 7th grader students in the afternoon. I had so many 6th graders ask to come back out in the afternoon that we ended up taking 80% of the 6th graders back with us in the afternoon as well. It was amazing to watch them go straight back to the site they left and continue to work it as hard as they had in the morning. It is one of those times you just had to be there. It was inspiring.

Best Practice 5: What community partners did you work with on this project (e.g. non-profits, civic organizations, business that provided donations, etc.)?
  • Maryland Materials, our partner in education, donated ten tons of stone.
  • Denton water provided water.
  • Parents came to supervise.
  • North Bay Environmental Center sent a representative to help supervise students as well as to reinforce the science element of the project.
  • Rising Sun Community Center provided back packs to each student to mark the event along with tools we needed. 

Best Practice 6: How did you prepare and plan ahead for the project?
We contacted parents for permission and support. Cindy Cantor planned the excavation with Parks and Recreation. We placed maps around the school to show the future site of the walking trail. We also collected newspapers to spread at the site.

Best Practice 7: What knowledge and skills did students develop through this project?
Students got to see first hand that they can make a difference in their community. After their experience working hard on the trail all day, some students said they need to do better in school and improve their grades because “they weren’t shoveling stones when they got older.” Also, while they were working, students discussed ways in which they could improve the project. For example, they noted it would have been preferable to have a small bobcat to move the stone instead of wheel barrows.