A group of 16 seventh graders, four parents and two teachers volunteered on a recent Saturday to remove Buckthorn from Sibley Elementary School’s nature area, one of two service projects the science teachers used this year to help bring curriculum to life.

Northfield Middle School teacher Katrina Meehan said a group may return in the fall to remove more of the non-native plants, whose growth has a negative effect on ecosystems. Last fall, Meehan and her colleague Amy Allin taught the students to recognize the invasive species, engaging them in a long-term restoration project at Carleton College Cowling Arboretum.

“For the past several years, we’ve worked with Arboretum Director Nancy Braker to remove Buckthorn in the arb,” Meehan said. “After studying plants and flower structure, we also return each spring to look at the wildflowers in our nature journaling curriculum. This way students can see the connection between removing Buckthorn, (which leafs out early and blocks sunlight,) and an increase in the native plant population.”

Service learning projects, such as the restoration work, have been incorporated in instruction throughout the district to enrich academics.

“We try to connect our curriculum to our community,” Meehan said. “It gives students a variety of ways to learn.”