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Hopewell Elementary students will get new ecological learning opportunities when some of the school’s existing lawn is converted to a native wildflower meadow with new outdoor reflection and learning sections.

The new area will feature a pollinator corridor to Hopewell Borough Park. Mike Van Clef Ph.D., stewardship director of Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space (FoHVOS), will oversee the project to ensure healthy ecological choices and tie in native plant selections from previous parkland restoration projects and the recent Timberlane Middle School bio-retention rain garden. Landscape Architect, Brian Gulbrandsen of Blueprint Landscape Lifestyle Design, has provided some preliminary drawings for the space ,and Nectars Landscape & Design has also offered to partner on the project.

“Our vision for the outdoor reflection area was to provide an ecologically sound and peaceful space for learning and relaxing,” said Helen Corveleyn, HES STEM facilitator. “In addition, we wanted to tie it together with native flowers students saw playing at the park as children and help them identify those they’ll see when they move on to Timberlane Middle School.”

HES STEM facilitator Helen Corveleyn and HVRSD superintendent Tom Smith planting in the rain garden at Timberlane

David Friedrich, HES Principal explained, “It was also a priority for us to give something back to nature and our community. By converting lawn space to native grasses and wildflowers, we improve the land and water by reducing erosion and runoff. This green initiative supports our School District’s environmental priorities and models actions we encourage for our students.

“HES is devoted to promoting sustainability efforts in many aspects of school life. In addition to the important work happening in science classrooms, students also participate in green teams and farm to school programs. HES also fosters relationships with local restaurants and farms to encourage the sustainable benefits gained from reducing their carbon footprint, eating and buying local, and promoting planetary respect. The school was awarded the Best in NJ award for their Farm to School project and Vertical Gardening initiatives. “We truly value and practice sustainability in an authentic way for kids and adults.”

Lisa Wolff, FoHVOS Executive Director, added, “FoHVOS and the Hopewell Valley School District share a passion for connecting children with nature, maximizing the ecological use of our lands, and promoting green initiatives throughout Hopewell Valley. The FoHVOS Community Conservation program is designed to collaborate and engage with community partners including school groups, foundations, NGOs, corporations, municipal partners, and local residents, to leverage everyone’s investment, expand environmental impacts, and build true connections to the land throughout the community.”

HES celebrated Earth Day last year with a “pocket pollinator” project that took place in Hopewell Borough park to increase biodiversity in the back field of the park.

“Sourland Mountain Conservancy and Mercer County Parks provided the conservation guidance, native plants, and instructions for planting for all elementary school students,” Corveleyn stated. “Students continue to return to me and tell me about root massage, planting at home, and native plants. The project had deep impact for kids becoming aware of conservation in our community and we hope to carry that enthusiasm into our school project.”

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