by Sarah Fox & Rollins Terry
It’s 8:30 a.m. and Environmental Science Teacher Ms. Judy McLoughlin is using oven cleaner to kill overgrown plants as her students collect branches in a growing pile, all trying to avoid the poison ivy that has been thriving for years.
They are part of the WHS courtyard restoration project, which seeks to clean up the open space between the front and middle hallways. While the project has sparked curiosity in students who have watched from classroom windows, many are unaware of what it hopes to accomplish.
According to McLoughlin, the hope is that once the courtyard is cleaned out, it can be used as a place for quiet study, as opposed to the current social courtyard. It will be a space for class study as well.
“Art classes could draw, science classes could use soil samples, English classes could do some reflective writing, and maybe food classes could have a vegetable garden,” she said.
McLoughlin also said that the environmental science students working on the project want to dedicate space for a memorial to honor Terry DiFalco, Ezra Kennedy and Jeff Hoens.
Principal Dr. Derrick Nelson also has high hopes for the courtyard. “We are looking for student volunteers to help maintain the courtyard” he said. “To a smaller extent the custodial staff will be involved, but it will be mostly student-based.”
The project itself is currently an educational tool for WHS teachers. McLoughlin’s classes partook in the cleanup as a means of getting hands-on with the environment, but the space is not limited to science.
English Teacher Mr. Steven Cohn has been taking his junior students to the courtyard as part of their transcendentalism unit, a literary movement with an emphasis on individualism and nature.
Junior Nicole Dispenza, a student in Cohn’s class, said: “We are reading Into the Wild, which is about a man’s adventures in the wild, so we are here exploring nature and helping the environment while also preparing an educational space for the future.”
McLoughlin and the WHS community see much promise for this space, if proper clean-up happens. Said Cohn, “The sky’s the limit for this courtyard.”