In my Biology 122 class, we were offered a significant amount of extra credit points for participating in Service Learning. My class went on a Service Learning project last weekend, but my schedule, as well as those of my lab partners and the other people at my table in class, didn't allow me to go. Fortunately, one of my lab partners checked around and found a Service Learning oppurtunity for Saturday, April 5.
Since I was the only one at the table who owns a car, let alone a truck big enough to carry five people, I offered to drive. I got up early and picked up four people. We went to Somme Woods, near Northbrook, Illinois. Our mission was to help clear buckthorn, an invasive species, from woodland.
We were issued saws and clippers, and went to work. This is Brian, who works the desk at Chicago Tattooing, one of the older tattoo shops in town.
These are my lab partners, Lalarukh and Tara. The other day, while working on a lab project, we were all talking about families and religion, and I discovered that Lala is Muslim and Tara is Jewish. Over the semester, they've become good friends. Only in America.
One of Brian's lab partners also joined us. Like me, she's getting the prerequisites for going to Pharmacy school out of the way. She was born in the United States and grew up here and and in Nigeria, where her parents are from.
I got lots of exercise, between using the hand saws to cut down trees and dragging the logs over to the fires. It was funny that cutting down trees and burning them was helping the environment, ridding the forest of an invasive species. The buckthorns sprout earlier than the oaks and lose their leaves later, and crowd out the oaks. The big picture of the project is to get rid of the buckthorns, and then do controlled burns every couple of years to keep them out. They were doing a burn in another section of the forest later, but none of us had the time to stick around for it.
There were about 20 of us, college students with a couple of teachers and a volunteer, who coordinated things. We cleared quite a lot of ground. It went from looking like this:
With the buckthorns cleared, light can reach the forest floor, and the oaks can thrive.
I was, as I figured I would be, sore as hell today. Between that and the need to take an online Biology quiz and prepare for tomorrow's Chemistry test, I did something I rarely do: I took a day off of work.
At the end of the day, it was a nice feeling, knowing that I'd helped fix this forest. And it was nice spending time with my classmates.
One of the things I'd forgotten about college was the classroom friendships that form. When you walk into a classroom, you look around and see people you've had a class with. I'm certain that I'll run into my classmates in the next few years. And I'm certain that we'll remember our day of Service Learning.