KCCB partners with EHS on flower project

Published 1:09 pm Friday, March 31, 2023

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Keep Carter County Beautiful wants to distribute flower seeds in the community, so they turned to Elizabethton High School students for help.
Could students design labels and package seeds for the group to give away at public events?
Elizabethton instructor Jessica Hayes, who teaches an environmental science course, was quick to say “yes.”
“The first question from students was, ‘Will we get to plant some?’” Hayes said.
The fun, colorful seed labels tell gardeners how and when to plant sunflowers and zinnias, how big the plants will get, and how these easy-to-grow plants attract pollinators. It includes an invitation for gardeners to submit their flower photos to the KCCB website.
Junior Makenzie Oliver designed the labels, and sophomore Loren Watson created drawings for Yellow Pygmy sunflowers – which grow 18 to 22 inches high, and a mix of four different zinnias. Both students said they were excited to be part of a community project.
Oliver worked under a tight deadline, creating several label designs for her teacher’s review. Because she is interested in studying architecture, designing an appealing product came naturally to her.
Watson said she wanted flowers to be both idealized and realistic, with strong visual appeal.
“I felt as though the seed packets’ design would be a big factor in whether or not people chose to use them,” she said.
Though Watson and her family enjoy gardening, the project gave her new perspective on the intricate nature of flowers. She learned “how meticulous it is to draw hundreds of tiny petals.”
She also learned what Keep Carter County Beautiful does in the community.
That work was “really inspiring to me in a world where we often hear a lot of negative news about the environment,” Watson said.
The class of 16 filled and labeled hundreds of packets, with students who plan to major in engineering in college serving as production managers. Students range from freshmen to seniors, but most are juniors.
The students were excited to do the project because KCCB trusted them, giving them full control of the design, their teacher said.
To Hayes, the project was a natural fit. The advanced-placement, college-level course focuses on Earth’s health and resources. Planting flowers is part of that story. Students talk about the harmful effects of deforestation and the good that comes from pollinators.
“Any time you add an organism that pulls carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, it’s an asset to the planet,” Hayes said.
Hayes had worked with Elizabethton High’s Denise Hilton on the Bee Cause Project in 2018. She knew first-hand that the bee population has declined in recent years, and how growing more flowers can help.
“Planting flowers helps the entire food web, the entire ecosystem,” she said.
“We are constantly analyzing ways that humans have affected our biosphere and seek to find solutions to the issues that the human race has caused to our planet,” Hayes said.
The seed project isn’t the only way Hayes has combined action with learning in the classroom. Advanced-placement EHS biology students traveled to Kingsport recently to meet and give feedback to fourth- and fifth-graders who created projects for St. Dominic School’s science fair.
“Elizabethton as a school has made a push to incorporate more project-based learning,” Hayes said. “When an opportunity arises for us to give back and help out our home, I want to take the time to do it and instill that mindset into our future generations.”
KCCB chairman Don Hlavaty is happy to have young people involved.
“To have the Elizabethton students packaging and creating the design for the packaging of these seeds is a fantastic thing,” he said. He added that young people also joined in a recent tree-planting event on the Tweetsie Trail.
“We’re hoping to get them involved in a lot of things in the future. Because our volunteer base seems to be getting older and older, any ideas young people have is just fantastic,” he said.
Hlavaty would love to see flowers growing on bare patches of land across Elizabethton.
“Getting flowers growing – imagine how much better it’s going to look, coming into town,” he said.
KCCB will give away seeds to volunteers at the Great American Cleanup, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 15, at the Lions Field parking lot. Volunteers will remove litter along the Tweetsie Trail.

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