BATAVIA – Batavia High School Ecology Club members, more than 50 volunteers and more than a dozen local individuals, businesses and organizations contributed to the transformation of an unused plot of grass on campus into a beautiful, natural waterscape for the benefit of students, teachers and staff.
The courtyard area, bordered by the school’s learning resource center, several classrooms and hallways, was a construction site on Oct. 8 and 9. Aquascape’s Ed Beaulieu taught students, staff and other volunteers how to build the water garden, while working alongside the group.
Aquascape donated the design and labor and provided the materials at cost.
“They went beyond our hopes in order to fit our budget,” said social studies teacher and Eco Club sponsor Elizabeth Faulhaber. “They truly are an amazing organization.”
Through his role with Aquascape, Beaulieu combines two passions – introducing people to the benefits of naturally sustainable water features, and teaching others how to build them. He guided Eco Club members through their design and plans for the waterscape, and at the construction site, he was in high power teaching mode, as he directed the volunteers.
“Ed has been fantastic,” Faulhaber said.
She said the project could have been done in one day, but Beaulieu took his time to explain each step and involved the students in the actual labor of the project.
Facilities Manager Rob Schmidt said he’s been impressed by how Beaulieu and the students have “brought this project to life.”
The waterscape, modeled after the Fox River, features a natural recirculating system that mimics nature, eliminating the need for chlorine. Beaulieu explained that this will make the water safe for the frogs, fish, birds, butterflies and other wildlife that will inhabit the area.
Faulhaber said the space will provide a variety of benefits, not the least of which will be a peaceful place to get outside and take a break.
“I think we learned something with Covid about mental health,” Faulhaber said. “To be able to literally get grounded; it makes a difference.”
Ecology Club Vice President Eleni Salas said she hopes the courtyard will be a place where students can gather, experience the calming effects of the water and spend time talking and connecting with each other.
Some science classes will be held in the space, in addition to classes for special education students, who benefit from an alternate classroom environment, said vocational special education teacher David Kleinschmidt. Students in the vocational track will take on a number of the maintenance responsibilities and other tasks that will complement their learning curriculum.
A number of other local groups, organizations and individuals have contributed money, materials and other types of donations to make the completion of this first phase a reality. The city of Batavia donated limestone saved from a building teardown in the 1980′s to create a border. The high school football team moved the limestone out of storage to the site, and several other athletic teams donated their labor.
Director of Operations Mark Anderson and his team were instrumental in handling the logistics, providing the required electrical sources and purchasing, among other things, ADA-appropriate gravel for a path to accommodate wheelchairs.
Inaugural financial funders included the Batavia United Way, the Batavia Women’s Club, Chip In Batavia, the Batavia Lions Club, the Rotary Club of Batavia/Interact, as well as the Muetze family, who donated several trees for shade.
Club members have also raised funds for the project, starting with a pet rock sale, and more recently, helping with another fundraiser at Pal Joey’s Restaurant.
The school will host a ribbon-cutting event in November, during which these and the other contributors will be honored.
Eco Club President Mayank Aggarwal explained that the mission of the Eco Club is to foster a deeper connection to the natural environment, as well as to encourage people to care for and preserve the environment. He said the courtyard transformation is a perfect example of that.
Salas and Aggarwal, both seniors, have been Eco Club members for their entire high school career. Other projects the Eco Club has been involved with include cataloging the arboretum and restoring the prairie next to the Wilson Street Pond.
When they graduate at the end of the school year, Salas said she hopes future students will get interested in joining the club and continuing its progress.
Source: The Daily Chronicle