Several members of Carlton High School's National Honor Society were recently seen walking in the ditch along Highway 45 between Carlton and Scanlon wearing fluorescent safety vests and filling bright-yellow garbage bags.
The students found mostly fast food litter and lots of aluminum cans as well as a few dead animals.
"I was surprised how many beer cans we found," Jessica Anderson said.
Carlton students in grades 6-8 have been participating in the community cleanup for about eight years. The National Honor Society members and YES! Team go with the younger students as mentors.
"Community members call a central contact person, Leola Rodd, to get on the list," Tracy Brockbrader, a middle-school science teacher, explained. "Many of the community members have had their yards done for quite a few years, so sometimes they even call ahead of us putting out the announcement about when cleanup day will be."
Kathy and Ron Anderson called to be placed on the list for the second year.
"I recently had surgery," Kathy said. "Ron, at 75 years old, just started a job in Hermantown."
Kathy sat on the front porch with her dog, Gert, and watched the youth work. She said the students did a great job last year and she was happy to have them lend a hand again.
"Most are senior citizens that would struggle to get their yards cleaned themselves," Brockbrader said. "That's how we explain it to the sixth-graders that will be going out for the first time - that community members who are older might have a harder time moving around to rake and a harder time bending over to bag leaves and brush, so we go out and help them out."
Brockbrader said the students cleaned up 14 yards and averaged about three bags of garbage at each place.
In addition to private residences, students cleaned the yards at the Oldenburg House and St. Francis Church.
A team of 10 students also assembled an educational evening of Carlton Climate Solutions for the public May 4 at Four Seasons in Carlton.
The students worked hard with guidance from Climate Generation members to learn about climate change and how even students can make a difference. They spent six months meeting and planning the educational public event during their lunch time.
Students invited Steve Sternberg, University of Minnesota Duluth professor chemical engineer professor, to be a guest speaker. Sternberg teaches several classes including environmental and air pollution control.
Ella Palmer, a ninth-grade student at Carlton, said the school already implemented a recycling program and began a garden several years ago.
"I invited my family (to the Carlton Climate Solutions)," Palmer said. "My mom does composting at home. The plants are bigger and the produce is better."
Fellow classmate Haley Adkins agreed. She said her family recycles at home and she hoped she would learn more during the educational event that night.
The girls said the group brainstormed ideas about what to include in the event and who to invite. They said it was fun to watch the evening come together.
They invited several vendors to provide resources on a variety of topics such as recycling, River Watch and "Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy." Several solution workshops were available.
"It's happening here in Carlton and it affects us, too. That's why we should care about it," Adkins said.