Youth volunteers tackle stuborn invaders

FBRA volunteers in Sandy Mush.

FBRA volunteers in Sandy Mush.

This fall, 6th and 7th grade boys from the French Broad River Academy (FBRA) volunteered to help heal a 45-acre conservation tract in the Sandy Mush area. They spent three days identifying invasive species and learning how to properly eradicate them without disturbing indigenous plants nearby.

Each morning, the boys arrived promptly at 9:30 am, ready to work hard weeding out the invasive plants. Kids and supervising adults split into three groups, and each group received a pair of loppers, hand clippers, rubber gloves, leather gloves, protective eye wear, a trash bag and a little bottle of herbicide that only adults could apply.

The young volunteers took their invasive species removal duties seriously.

The young volunteers took their invasive species removal duties seriously.

The groups hiked to designated areas on the  property and went to work on oriental bittersweet and multi flora rose. They followed a three-step process to assist the eradication process. The students cut the plant an inch from its root, a supervising adult dabbed the cut area with herbicide, and they all bagged up the remaining parts of the pants. The invasive species that the students were working with have adventitious roots — meaning that if part of the plant is cut and left on the ground it will re-root itself. This makes the eradication process very tricky but the students were up for the challenge, scouring the area to carefully recover all the cut portions of the invasives.

Invasive species - carefully bagged for removal.

Invasive species – carefully bagged for removal.

We were impressed with the great attitudes, eagerness, and work ethic of the FBRA volunteers.

We were impressed with the great attitudes, eagerness, and work ethic of the FBRA volunteers.

The students were working on a property densely populated with poplar, oak and witch hazel trees with a small stream flowing through the scenery. The students of FBRA are no strangers when it comes to water. Their education heavily focuses on the French Broad River and includes outings such as kayaking and canoeing. The students were enthusiastic about what was in the stream, and they found all sorts of creatures like crawfish, salamanders, and a small northern water snake.

Shortly after time spent in the stream, one student asked, “Why can’t we just spray all the invasive species instead of slowly cutting and dabbing?”

Investigating a stream on the property.

Investigating a stream on the property.

In response a fellow student replied, “Spraying the herbicide will kill the indigenous plants and get into the stream.” Outings like this volunteer day provide the boys with educational adventures in the environment and hands-on interactions that allow the students to teach each other. These experiences help the students to make connections between human actions and impact on nature.

FBRA is a one-of-a-kind school, and it was a pleasure working with well-behaved young boys. These students have the willingness to work hard to create a better environment for present and future generations. Thank you!

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