On Friday, September 30th, a group of a few dozen Middleton High School students were bussed out to a Verona segment of the Ice Age Trail, where a prairie restoration project was in progress. Our mission was to pile thousands of tree branches and logs into a few giant heaps to prepare them for a winter burning. This initiative would help facilitate a more successful controlled burn in 2017.
Throughout the trip, I was amazed to see an incredible amount of enthusiasm displayed by the students as they completed simple, monotonous tasks. From 9am to 2pm, the entire group of often rowdy, apathetic teens paid close and genuine attention to the informational briefings and were constantly at work. Us kids really seemed to grasp the power of working together in a collaborative way as we worked together to haul log after log into the pile for hours on end.
But perhaps the appreciation of nature was our biggest motivator. Our love for the environment was really the factor that turned a group of apathetic teens into a team of empathetic preservationists.
When asked if we wanted to take a short hike, the group overwhelmingly responded “yes” with unexpected enthusiasm. On the beautiful hike, we were close listeners to our guide’s descriptions of different ecosystems, and when we saw the positive impact of our work on the natural environment, we gained a greater appreciation for initiatives like the Ice Age Trail.
This experience gave me hope for our future. Get a bunch of teenagers – typically associated with laziness and apathy – together with a few tools, a difficult goal, and a passion for nature, and incredible things can happen. The group was engaged and spirited in their work for the entire five hours, which, perhaps, shows a positive sign that our future generations will fight for the betterment of the environment.