Buchtel students help restore lot, mental wellness for Middlebury neighbors

June 14, 2017

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Students from an Akron high school designed and implemented plans for a vacant lot in Middlebury to help create more of a sense of community where it’s often been forgotten.

Tenth-graders at Buchtel CLC started by working together to make models in the classroom of what could go in a vacant lot, not only to make it look more appealing, but to also bring the community together.

“This neighborhood is more than 60 percent vacant,” says Marissa Little, Neighborhood Revitalization Coordinatorfor Neighborhood Network, Habitat for Humanity. “So we’re trying to combat that vacant feeling that the neighbors who are still left might have.”

Buchtel is a “project based learning” (PBL) school, which combines two areas of study and influences learning through projects. Meredith Cole teaches 10th grade “Bio-Health,” and came across Little, who had a vacant lot that needed work. Combining health and biology, Cole and her students created a project to help enhance the emotional health of the neighborhood.

Thanks to collaborations between the school, Summit County Land Bank and Habitat for Humanity, the project is in full swing as students paint fences, plant flowers and install tables and benches that will invite neighbors to sit together. The students also designed plans for hopscotch and educational tools so the lot would attract kids.

The project also incorporated biology as the students learned about ecosystems that could attract certain animals to the lot. The students even chose specific plants that would make people feel calm and attract butterflies.

“This is 100-percent better than our kids have done on any other project,” says Cole. “They said it was their favorite project so far because it was more real world, and they knew there was actually a vacant lot that they were doing.”

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