Iowa Teens Can Do Yard Work For School Credit

Jun 18, 2019
Originally published on June 18, 2019 10:33 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Plenty of students hate gym class. And, Noel, I'm not going to lie. I was one of them.

NOEL KING, HOST:

I can see that.

INSKEEP: Now a school in Dubuque, Iowa, is taking a different approach to gym.

KING: That's right. Teachers at Alternative Learning Center, which serves 11th and 12th graders, designed their own PE programs that the kids can take for credit. So they can go canoeing, go hiking. Or they can do yardwork.

TIM HITZLER: At first, they sort of - they're hesitant because it's - you know, if I said to you, hey, let's go do yardwork, you're probably not too excited.

INSKEEP: (Laughter) That's Tim Hitzler, a social studies teacher at the school. A few years ago, he decided to have students work in the school garden for credit.

HITZLER: Then it just sort of stems from there into thinking that there's a lot of people in the community that are elderly and or disabled that would need help with yardwork. So we said let's try it.

INSKEEP: Worked in the garden, stemmed from there - please - OK.

KING: Very nice, Steve.

INSKEEP: OK.

KING: So since then, every June, he leads a group of kids out into the classroom - out of the classroom - and into the neighborhoods of Dubuque where they mow lawns. They pick up yard waste. They plant trees. Nick Colson (ph) is one of those students. He's 17. And he says, without this program, he probably never would have met his neighbors.

NICK COLSON: I'm more of like a go-to-school-go-to-work-home-repeat kind of guy. So to me, I probably would not have met any of these people.

INSKEEP: His teacher says the program has been such a success that he wants to expand it into the fall. One reason it works - it's simple.

HITZLER: You know, in education, a lot of times, there's so many different gimmicks and curriculum packages you can buy and things like that. And something like this - all you need is a few garden tools. You know, I mean, it just makes sense. It's so simple. And it works.

KING: Seems like it does. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.