Horace Mann beautification

Horace Mann fifth-graders, teachers and volunteers spent much of the day Thursday working outside on the annual beautification project. They spent the morning weeding and raking the grounds and came back out in the afternoon to plant flowers and lay mulch.

OTTUMWA — Ann Weilbrenner said it was simply luck that the rains took most of Thursday off.

“We always do this the Thursday before Memorial Day,” the Horace Mann teacher said of the annual fifth-grade beautification project. “We just got lucky.”

She said the students spent a good part of the morning weeding and raking the school grounds, then came back out in the afternoon to plant flowers and lay mulch.

“It ties in nicely to our living systems unit,” Weilbrenner said. The kids can see the difference between the annuals and perennials, especially since the perennials have begun to bloom.

More class lessons tied into the project as well. “Yesterday, we came out and measured the length and the width to calculate the area to know how much mulch to purchase,” Weilbrenner said. But no mulch purchase was necessary; she said Hy-Vee Drug donated the mulch to the project.

“Over the years, we’ve had families donate perennials as well,” she said.

The project is more than just a classroom lesson to Weilbrenner, though. “It’s about more than just planting flowers. We talk about school pride, giving to the community and having fun outside with your friends without technology.”

She said the project is something they have been doing “many, many years.”

“It’s so important to give the kids opportunities to do something different, something they maybe haven’t done before.”

While Weilbrenner was directing kids on the side of the school, volunteer Roger Thomas was showing students how to plant marigolds around the benches in the front of the school lawn.

“Don’t make the hole too deep,” he told them. Once the flowers were in place, he showed them how to get the dirt packed down to keep them in place, and the students were enthusiastic about helping out.

Weilbrenner was happy to be outside with the students Thursday as they served their school and community. “I just absolutely enjoy being outside with them. It’s fun to see them have fun being outside and volunteering.”

Some students even gave up their lunch recess to keep working, she said. “We have great kids doing great things in this community.”

Even a quick sun shower in the morning worked in the students’ favor. Weilbrenner said it gave them a chance to go inside, review the next steps and get a drink.

“It was actually perfect.”

Features Editor Tracy Goldizen can be reached via email at tgoldizen@ottumwacourier.com or followed on Twitter @CourierTracy.

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Tracy Goldizen is the Courier's magazine editor, leading production of "Ottumwa Life," the award-winning "Business People" and the Courier's other magazine offerings. She began work with the Courier on the copy desk.