Native plants and student enthusiasm bring life back to the Peace Garden


Anna Claywell

Preparing to place a new plant in the Peace Garden, juniors Sarah Reifschneider and Jojo Shank dig up the soil with their hands. Both are members of Sunrise Club, which aims to help stop the climate crisis. “Building awareness on these topics is important, especially to our generation, because the issue will be in our hands in the future,” Reifschneider said.

Hands in the soil, shoveling and planting, students passionate about environmentalism helped to revitalize the Peace Garden.

On May 3, the Environmental and Sunrise Clubs met to beautify the Peace Garden. They planted native plants such as Sea Oats, Pennsylvania Sedge, Jacob’s Ladder and Blue Cardinal flowers.

“These [plants] are native to the area, so they require less care, invite pollinators and wildlife and just make the garden look pretty,” Environmental Club President and senior Quinn Gillies said. “Adding native plants is a fantastic way for the school to reduce its environmental impact and educate people on the benefits of using native plants.”

This is Gillies’ first year as club president after being co-leader last year. Gillies has been passionate about sustainability for several years and, had almost zero-waste last year, throwing out virtually no trash at all.

“Environmental Club hosts meetings where we discuss global sustainability as well as ways that we as students can change our own lives or the school to be more environmentally friendly,” Gillies said. “I can’t remember how we decided on this project specifically, but we came up with the idea at the beginning of the year. Adding more plants to the peace garden will make it look better and hopefully encourage students and teachers to use the space more frequently.”

Many students, like junior Amy Rein, who enjoys gardening, look forward to the Peace Garden’s revival.

“Being in a beautiful learning environment helps me learn better and appreciate the school more. You can sit in class and look out and see how peaceful and pretty [the Peace Garden] is. If it is nice, then it gets people excited to be [at school],” Rein said.

President of Sunrise Club and junior Sarah Reifschneider invited her club members to join the beautification. The Sunrise Club, West’s chapter of the Sunrise Movement, focuses on stopping the climate crisis. Despite their similar goals of helping global sustainability, Environmental Club and Sunrise Club have never teamed up before.

“We wanted to do this project because it will beautify the school and make the Peace Garden a nicer space that people can use again. Our senior members recall a time when people could eat lunch, and spend time out in the Peace Garden. We would like to restore it to its former glory, making it a fun, shared space,” Reifschneider said.