BEAVER -- A piece of trash had blown into the pond, and a member of the Eastern High School Science Club was quick to remove it. The group has taken a thoughtful and caring ownership of its "Wildsite" project on the campus of Eastern Local Schools.
Some of the club members and their adviser, science and biology teacher Bill Legg, talked about the site Tuesday afternoon, amidst the handmade bird houses and the recently planted pine trees.
The club has partnered with Ohio Department of Natural Resources to develop a self-sustaining ecosystem that will, in time, produce a sustainable fish population.
After learning about the ODNR grant from a colleague, Legg attended a workshop in December to learn more about the project.
He applied for and received a $500 grant to make the school campus more attractive to wildlife.
The grant was awarded in January, and the group immediately started buying supplies, with additional assistance from Pike County Soil and Water Conservation District and a $150 donation from Pike County Fish and Game Club.
In March, club members mounted several nest boxes to provide habitats for the area's bluebirds, wood ducks, bats and butterflies. Other projects have included building aquatic structures for a pond to provide habitat for fish and also planting 50 white pine trees and 42 bags of wildflower seeds. On April 4, the fish arrived, and students began to stock the pond.
As the fish were taken from the delivery truck, students were able to view and study the various fish species, which included fat-head minnows, gold shiners, blue gills, hybrid blue gills, channel catfish, large-mouth bass and hybrid striped bass. The minnows were added so they could reproduce and later provide food for the larger species. Fishing at the pond will be prohibited.
Zack Sowry is a senior and helped build the fish habitats, which involved making triangles out of pallets, wiring them together and putting cement blocks on them, then sinking them to the bottom of the pond.
Legg said the pond was constructed about eight years ago when the schools were built, but has no structure.
Katelynn Williams, a junior, said she helped place the fish habitats into the pond and helped plant wildflowers.
"It will be pretty and peaceful when all the flowers are grown," Williams said. She hopes in the future, benches can be built so everyone can come to the site and enjoy the scenery.
Seth Blanton, a junior, helped install some of the bird houses and placed fish habitats into the pond. "It was a lot of fun," Blanton said.
"The main idea," Legg said, "is to make it an outdoor classroom."
ODNR provides workbooks and standards that must be applied. Once established, the site can be submitted to the state to have it designated as an official ODNR Wildsite.
Officials at ODNR said Wildsite schools can involve any school property used by students, teachers and the school community as a place to learn about and benefit from wildlife and the environment. The sites function within the premise every school, regardless of size and location, can provide outdoor educational opportunities that can and should be part of any integrated educational program, ODNR said.
No ordinary club
Legg said you won't find traditional meetings for Eastern High School Science Club. He has told the students, "You're going to get dirty, and there's going to be manual labor."
However, they're excited about the club, he said, and often ask "When's the next meeting? When are we going to work?"
Legg said he told the students, "This is your project."
Richard Wagner, a junior, said after he finishes track each day, he always goes down to the pond area and checks the bird houses.
Jessica Richmond, also a junior, said she helped plant wildflower seeds, and thinks all the trees and flowers will be good for the environment.
While this first year primarily entails preparation of the site, Legg said once the plan is submitted to ODNR, they will come and do an inspection. If the site officially is designated as a Wildsite, the school will receive a plaque, and a dedication ceremony will take place.
But for now, Legg has told his students, "It's not going to happen in a year. You're going to have to do it little by little. You have to continuously take care of it."
DEBORAH DANIELS can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 234, or e-mail