Students go green at Williston Central School (4/29/10)

April 29, 2010

By Greg Duggan

Observer staff

Decked out in green shirts, students wandered the grounds of Williston Central School on Friday. Many of them had trash bags in hand as they picked garbage out of the woods, grass and wetlands surrounding the school.


    Observer photo by Greg Duggan
Zachary Varricchione and Zaza Quatt pick trash out of a wetland next to Williston Central School on Friday. The students were taking part in the school’s Green Up Day.


    Observer photo by Greg Duggan
Austyn Morin rakes leaves in the Williston Central School courtyard during the school’s Green Up Day.

The green shirts represented the color of Swift House, which spent the week honoring former teacher Al Myers (photo on page 9), but it made for an appropriate coincidence on the school’s Green Up Day.

For the second straight year, students helped clean the grounds of the school. The idea for a Green Up Day at Williston Central came about a couple years ago, when parent volunteer Nicki Layman went into the school’s courtyard to toss the ball around with her son.

“It was apparent to me that this was a beautiful space, but had been neglected,” Layman said.

Layman worked with Principal Jackie Parks and parent Sarah Hibbeler to organize a crew of parents and school staff to clean up the courtyard. The group raked, pruned and transformed the courtyard into a useable space. Parks then suggested putting together a Green Up Day for the school, and a year ago students helped with the cleanup.

“Last year we started it as a tradition. The day before April break seems to be good timing for us to have it,” Parks said.

Vermont’s Green Up Day — when residents throughout the state roam their towns and clean up trash — happens on Saturday; holding a Williston Central School Green Up Day last week gave students a chance to participate before the April vacation.

“Kids get antsy before they go on break,” Layman said. “It’s a good way to divert them and let them exert some energy and help out the environment and the school.”

Parks said the day also fosters a sense of community within the entire school, rather than just among individual academic houses.

Students enjoyed a sunny day on Friday. Dozens of students toiled in the courtyard. Early in the afternoon, approximately 50 students raked leaves, pulled weeds, planted flowers and otherwise tidied the outdoor space.

But as Parks said, while the courtyard was the focal point and impetus for the cleanup, Green Up Day expanded beyond that area.

Outside the school, small groups of students picked up refuse in the area.

Marsha Drake, a paraprofessional with Swift House, walked with several students as they picked up trash around the school.

“We decided to circle the school to see if anything was left,” Drake said.

Zaza Quatt, Shania Stearns and Zachary Varricchione, after emerging from a swampy area next to the school, said they found a good bit of trash in the woods near U.S. 2. The garbage included candy wrappers and a wine bottle.

“Do you know what’s really a shame?” Quatt said. “That people would even think of polluting.”



The transformation of the courtyard at Williston Central School goes far beyond a simple cleanup during the school’s Green Up Day.

Since parents Nicki Layman, Sarah Hibbeler and others began making the courtyard a useable space last year, the area has become a popular spot in the school. Principal Jackie Parks said students can stroll through the courtyard between classes, and teachers and students often eat lunch in the outdoor area.

Now, the courtyard can also be used as a classroom.

Layman tracked down a large, slate blackboard for the school to purchase, around which benches were installed. Once students return from the April break, Parks said, teachers will be able to sign up to use the space for class.

“It’s an outdoor classroom, complete with an old-fashioned chalkboard and benches,” Parks said.


— Greg Duggan, Observer staff