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"Students, AmeriCorps reclaim LMS wetland"

"Some time in the not-too-distant future, Langley Middle School students will end their school days covered with mud. But they will do it in the interest of science.Last week, volunteer Randy Bradley used a trachoe to dig up tons of grass-covered soil behind Langley Middle School. His work was the first step in a joint AmeriCorps, LMS project to restore a long-buried and long-forgotten wetland.Looking like a huge, yellow dinosaur, the trachoe scooped about an acre of grass and muddy soil Monday and Tuesday, leaving behind a shallow basin complete with a picturesque peninsula and flowing stream.That was the easy part. For the next two to three years, the excavated wetland will be a hands-on learning area for LMS students. They will work in the dirt, plant trees and aquatic plants, and learn what it takes to make a wetland a home for birds, frogs, rodents, and other creatures.Brookhaven Creek, which feeds the new wetland, has long been a focus of study in Jay Freundlich's earth science classes at LMS. Now there is more to categorize and quantify.This will add new areas and more species, Freundlich said.Spearheaded by AmeriCorps, the wetland project has been in the works for about two years. Last year the group started forest and wetland plants growing in the LMS greenhouse and secured permits for the wetland excavation work. Will Black, the AmeriCorps team coordinator, said the organization is also providing labor and paying for much of the restoration work. In all likelihood, the wetland has been there as long as the creek, though for the past 40-plus years it has been underneath a covering of dirt and grass. In the 1950s, Langley High School, as it was called then, needed to build a track and other athletic fields, so the wetland was filled. That did not erase its presence, however, because every spring the field turned soggy and the far end of the track flooded.When finished, the wetland will have a small upland pond, a riparian wetland swale, a walking bridge, a large lowland pond, and a rock waterfall. LMS students will take care of most of the planting, using the plants in the school's greenhouse.Black said the wetland work fits with a larger plan developed by AmeriCorps and the school district. Eventually, with AmeriCorps' help, every school in the district will have an environmental education area on or near its campus. The primary and intermediate schools were the first schools to get such treatment when AmeriCorps began building a network of woodland trails three years ago. Bayview High School boasts an organic garden area. Freundlich's classes will start working and studying in the wetland-in-progress this spring. He said he expects his students to be involved in restoration activities for at least two years. Those students will collect baseline data about the wetland plant's and animals that will be used by students in future years as they study the area's biology."

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