Forest Hills Public Schools is home to nearly 200 acres of forested land. Over the years, teachers from many schools have used their school grounds as teaching “labs” to help students connect with their local watershed, discover the issues of invasive species and the benefits of native plants, and create experiences to help students make positive impacts on their place. Impassioned and conservation-minded teachers have held many stewardship activities such as invasive species removal workdays, a prescribed burn, native plant restorations, as well as water-testing and remediation on various school properties. Through partnerships with various WMCN partners, thousands of Forest Hills students have learned the importance of our natural land and water and how they can positively care for these natural resources throughout their lives.
An example of this mission took place in the spring of 2021. The woods at Forest Hills Central Middle School are used by students and community members alike as they travel from their suburban neighborhoods to the school grounds. The woods are overrun with several invasive plant species, which are deteriorating the health of the woods. Invasive plant species outcompete and reduce the number of native plants, and as a result reduce the number of native plants available to wildlife and thus lower the overall value or biodiversity of the area. FHPS teachers Lea Sevigny and Caitlyn Tetreault led their students through a unique artistic experience, Invasive Species Forest Weaving. The goal of the unique artistic experience was to remove invasive bittersweet, have students learn about the negative effects of invasive bittersweet as well as teach neighbors about what they can do about invasive bittersweet on their properties.
First, students learned to identify bittersweet, then students cut and used large vines as the loom pieces for their weavings. The next step was to create the weaving artwork using only found or upcycled materials such as old t-shirts and plastic bags, litter found around the woods, or more elements of invasive plants, such as young vines and branches. Twenty-nine student weavings were created each being different in size and shape and then the weavings were displayed on a trail throughout the woods. It was exciting to watch the student’s creative problem-solving ability grow as they explored making art with natural materials, while thinking about what items they wanted to include in their weavings to set them apart from others. Learning about the natural world, how to help care for it, and knowing that artistic creations could be made with “found” items were all important parts of the project.
In an effort to share their voices with the community, students wrote artists’ statements, discoverable through QR codes posted at each weaving site and compiled on a website they created, Invasive Species Forest Weaving. Neither teacher could have implemented this project on her own, but by bringing their skill set and passions together, their students were able to make a positive impact on their community, one weave at a time.