Armed with shovels, members of the Signal Hill Science Club got to work planting butterfly bushes and flowers in the club's butterfly garden in celebration of Earth Day Monday.
The seventh and eighth graders also spread wild flower seed and refilled the feeders in the club's bird feeding station.
Seventh-grader Tyrese Granger, 13, said the science club is "trying to make the world a better place" by creating a natural habitat at the school.
Seventh-grader Aislinn Harris, 13, said she enjoys coming out to the garden and working with her friends.
"It's actually really fun," she said of gardening.
Eighth-grader C.C. Campbell, 14, said the garden area "makes our school look better."
Signal Hill Science Teacher Matt Zipfel spearheaded the effort to create the butterfly garden and bird feeder station at the Belleville school.
Once Zipfel got approval from school administrators and funding was in place, the Science Club began working on the project last spring. It was funded through donations from the school's Parent Teacher Organization and a grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
In the fall, the club constructed the bird feeding station, which is a small pavilion filled with an array of bird feeders. Zipfel said Cardinals, woodpeckers, finches, hummingbirds, chickadees and butterflies visit the area.
Now, the students are working on Phase Two of the project -- increasing the amount of plants and flowers in an effort to expand the garden area.
In the future, Zipfel said the science club would like to add a small weather station, build a hanging bird feeding mobile and construct a sheltered picnic area. The garden area, located behind the school near the playground, now has one bench.
"I like having a place to come and see the birds and relax," Aislinn said. "It's a peaceful spot."
Zipfel said the students playing at recess "get a nice view. It's a nice peaceful little area."
For the science club, maintaining the butterfly garden and feeding station is an ongoing process, according to Zipfel.
In addition to caring for the garden area, members of the science club coordinate the school's paper recycling effort, adopt a zoo animal annually and go on outdoor adventures.
"The general goal of the club to get the kids out in nature," Zipfel said. "I don't know a better way for the kids to learn science other than to get their hands into it."
Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or firstname.lastname@example.org.