MARQUETTE - As the gardeners of Marquette put away their trowels and prepare their gardens for a long Upper Peninsula winter, the students of the Environmental Club at Marquette Senior High School are just getting started.
Roughly 55 square feet of concrete inside the school's courtyard was torn up recently and will be replaced with a native plant garden in the spring.
"We wanted to get rid of the cement, make (the courtyard) more friendly," said junior Scott Kalishek, a student in the Environmental Club. "It's a big part of the school, but barely anyone else goes in it."
Marquette Senior High School junior Scott Kalishek uses a jackhammer to break up concrete in the school’s courtyard while senior Eliza Short and junior Dylan Dowrick help clean up the aftermath. (Journal photo by Jackie Stark)
The club has already cultivated a native plants garden, which members have been working with for the past five years. However, the group's adviser, science teacher Karen Bacula, said the students had their sights set on the courtyard for quite some time.
"They've been asking to do this for years, and we finally worked it out," Bacula said. "We connected some dots and got things going."
One of those dots included Closner Construction, which donated the time of several workers as well as safety equipment, jack hammers, wheelbarrows and other tools necessary to remove the concrete.
Tony Retaskie, executive director of the Upper Peninsula Construction Council (which includes Closner Construction), said donating the time and the tools was an easy decision to make.
"It's always fun to work with the students," Retaskie said. "And we had the equipment and the expertise (to help)."
Four Closner Construction employees oversaw the project, even showing the students how to properly use the jackhammers.
The task of replanting the uncovered area with native plants will be done in the spring by students in the Environmental Club and from the school's environmental biology class.
Bacula said the group is hoping the native plants will help make the area more inviting for students.
"It'll liven things up," she said. "Make it less like a parking lot and more like a comfortable space to use."
And for Kalishek, this small transformation is only the beginning.
"I'd like to make an edible garden," he said. "It would be great to one day be able to put food in the cafeteria."
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.