COSTA MESA — Sixth- and seventh-graders got their hands dirty early Monday morning as they worked to restore the park they grew up playing and learning in.
Waldorf School of Orange County students planted about 200 native plants in a section of Costa Mesa's Talbert Nature Preserve that's set aside as the private school's native plant garden.
The private school on Canyon Drive in Costa Mesa is on a hill overlooking Fairview Park and the preserve, making the nearby open space like a second classroom for students attending the K-12 campus, said Denise Ogawa, the school's development director.
Students regularly use the land for lessons or physical education classes, and they need a little extra space for ecology lessons or play time in the park, Ogawa said.
"For us to have this as a resource right next door is incredible," she said.
So when the Orange County Parks division approached the school about helping restore the native habitat, school members jumped at the opportunity, Ogawa said.
Service is exactly what sixth-grade teacher Nancy Mitchell said she wants her students to take away from their morning work — that and putting in some real work digging holes.
Mitchell's was one of two classes that came down to the preserve to plant coyote bush, buckwheat and lemonade berry.
They carried buckets full of mulch and water back and forth from a truck parked on the paved trail as the sun beat down on them on a chilly morning.
The students had free reign to plant wherever they wished, said Sue Stoffell, a special resource officer with Orange County Parks.
"I always tell the kids, 'You go where you want,' because that's how nature does it," Stoffell said.
Aimee Rowe, 12, who was planting a lemonade berry bush with her classmate Adam Gerard, 12, said she remembers coming to play in what the students call "green park" as early as first grade.
But back then, the sixth-grader said she would climb the trees.
The class doesn't get to come out to the open space as much as when the students were younger, but all the students love the chance to get outdoors, Aimee said.
As seventh-graders Nairi Ghazarian, 13, and Emma Morrison, 12, worked on getting a coyote bush in the ground, they agreed on at least one thing: Planting in the park is better than sitting in a classroom.