Story by Kelley McDonnell, Stewardship Network Spring 2017 Intern and Garlic Mustard Challenge Coordinator. This May, Kelley graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a degree in Environmental Conservation and Sustainability.
I wrapped up my internship at the Stewardship Network New England and UNH Cooperative Extension with a wonderful opportunity to work with students and teachers from Durham's Oyster River Middle School. Before this internship I had never seen garlic mustard in person, let alone pulled it for 5 hours straight, so I was a little nervous about organizing and participating in a Garlic Mustard Challenge event on my own, but it all worked out in the end.
We planned to hold our garlic mustard workday for May 11th from about 8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. (give or take an hour for lunch and the occasional snack break) so the students could use this stewardship day to count toward their "Service-palooza" hours, which is a school-wide day of stewardship and community service for all of the students at the Oyster River Middle School. We pulled garlic mustard at two sites in Durham including along UNH College Brook next to the Memorial Union Building and at the Oyster River Middle School. After the day of service we managed to pull eight full bags of garlic mustard and I must say, that was more than I was expecting!
After being surrounded by college students 24/7 for four years straight I forgot how much fun it is to be around a bunch of 5th graders. The group that I worked with was the most outgoing, adventurous, and creative group of students I could have ever wished to worked with. Most of them were already familiar with garlic mustard from learning about it in the classroom or already having pulled it with their parents or grandparents. This made my job of trying to help them identify the invasive plant a whole lot easier. Every time a student put a handful of garlic mustard in one of the garbage bags, they each had a look of accomplishment on their faces knowing that they were helping out their community and the environment. I have never seen a more enthusiastic group of young kids so excited to be out in nature and help restore these infested habitats; I must say it was a humbling experience.
Thank you Oyster River Middle School Students and staff for helping out with the Garlic Mustard Pull and thank you to the Stewardship Network New England and UNH Cooperative Extension for a great semester of work and a wonderful experience!