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Quechee students help rebuild and learn from Tropical Storm Iren - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Quechee students help rebuild and learn from Tropical Storm Irene

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QUECHEE, Vt. - When Tropical Storm Irene rolled through the region in August 2011, it had devastating effects. The downpour triggered deluges around the state, destroying property and rerouting rivers. That included the Ottauquechee River which runs along Route 4 flowing through hard-hit towns like Bridgewater and Woodstock.

Elementary students at the Ottauquechee School are helping to restore the landscape one tree at a time.

Third-graders like Bella Boerie were barely old enough to go to school when the storm hit.

Reporter Adam Sullivan: Do you remember Tropical Storm Irene or were you too little?

Bella Boeri: I remember it.

Like most of us, the kids remember the storm well. "There was tons of water and it was really scary for me," said Boeri.

John Kustafik/2nd grade: Scary.

Reporter Adam Sullivan:  How come?

John Kustafik: Because the water was high and people could drown in it; because I don't know how to swim.

The banks of this river along with others around the state, also have scars where the raging waters widened it. "Sometimes the dirt from the river can fall into the water so it will go away," said Boeri.

But on this day, the dirt is on the students' hands. The trees they are planting will help to stop further erosion. "If there is a flood it can slow down the water," said Kustafik.

With help from Windsor County Forester Jon Bouton, the entire school is planting around 450 trees near the river in this Quechee flood plain.
"It's going to help make this a more resilient area," said Bouton. "There are little bits of math that are involved in this; there are little bits of English that will be involved as well, so this is a great learning experience for them and it is community service. We should all be doing some community service."

Service learning projects are a big part of the curriculum. The tropical storm, with its lasting effects, has been a focus. "We have been doing trees now since Irene in different parts with the White River Partnership. Planting trees in Ratcliffe, Lyman Point and Clifford Park, and this is another example. It's there community and the storm devastated some of their neighbors. I think it shows the environmental impact and they can help," said Ottauquechee School Principal Amos Kornfeld.

But erosion prevention is just one of the topics addressed. Birds will also benefit from the black willows, cottonwoods, and boxelders being planted.

"We are learning about the habitats and how the animals can adapt to certain habitats," said Boeri.

And they are learning about what it means to be a member of a community.

Reporter Adam Sullivan: Does it make you feel good that you are helping Vermont?

Bella Boeri: Yeah, it does because I can be part of a community and help the community.

The Ottauquechee School is using the storm as a tool to teach.

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