At 71 miles long, the High Line Canal is one of the longest continuous urban trails in the country. It twists through woodlands, prairies, rolling foothills, and neighborhoods and is preserved, protected, and enhanced by the High Line Canal Conservancy in partnership with the public.
This year, Grade 5 is piloting a program with the Conservancy and will serve as youth ambassadors for the canal, connecting communities and nature from the foothills to the plains.
The program was inspired by last year’s Grades 5/6 Service Council. An enthusiastic and ambitious group of eight partnered with the High Line Canal Conservancy in their effort to protect the environment. After volunteering on the canal -- collecting data about usage, trash and wildlife -- council members gave an informative presentation to the Highline Canal Conservancy to share their findings. Celia McCarty, then a fifth grader, noted that students selected a partnership with the Conservancy because they wanted opportunities to work hands-on in the community, and she thanked the staff for making that experience possible. The staff at the Conservancy was so impressed with their work, that they gladly agreed to expand the program for the entire fifth grade this year.
This new service learning program kicks off at Waterton Canyon, the starting point of the High Line Canal. Fifth graders will explore where the canal starts, learn about its history (it is over 100 years old!), and begin their year-long stewardship of this diverse greenbelt and habitat corridor. The canal is divided into zones, each with a unique environment: urban refuge, prairie retreat, wooded village, rolling foothills, and wild canyon.
Once a month, students will head out in four different directions along the canal to volunteer as the “eyes and ears” of the Conservancy. They will take notes on wildlife, trail usage, and trash. Students will also conduct a Bioblitz, a tech-supported survey of each section of the canal. Using the iNaturalist app, students will photograph and help identify plants and animals along the trail. Whether they are pulling invasive plants near Delaney Farm, noting how bikers, walkers and horses share the trail, or logging digital data, the students will provide valuable assistance in conserving and maintaining this urban treasure.
Back at Graland, students will connect their service to their academic classes. In science they may explore the canal construction and problem solve ways to prevent water seepage. English classes will read Thunder Tree by Robert Pyle, an adventure about how Denver children who got caught in a storm when they were exploring the High Line Canal. The P.E. department and avid bikers on the faculty and staff may connect their passion for sport and the outdoors to this service project. And what better place than outdoors to inspire art and poetry?
We are excited to launch our new partnership with the High Line Conservancy, explore the canal, and connect our Grade 5 community to this historic urban refuge!
Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1924, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.