June 18, 2024
Gavin Grant works on an assignment during a math class in the learning garden at High Marq Environmental Charter School in Montello.

Students at Fox River Academy need the usual supplies expected of any elementary and middle schoolers — a backpack, pencils, a notebook or two — but they also need a pair of boots, a raincoat and a willingness to get their hands dirty. 

On any given Thursday, it isn’t unusual to find the kindergarten to eighth-grade students at the Appleton environmental charter school  digging in the dirt or running down to the ravine near the school on the edge of Pierce Park for an outdoor excursion. In April, for example, the students spent a day outside building a hugelkultur garden — a self-sustaining garden bed made from plant debris. 

They were collecting broken tree limbs and fallen leaves to strategically pile onto a freshly raked garden bed. While preparing the ground, the students found worm after worm after worm. The younger students at one point found so many worms they made a “worm family.”