LEWISTON – With four shovels nearly competing for dirt, occasionally dinging off each other, they dug and dug and dug until water dampened the bottom of the hole.

Scott Bates stepped down, inside, surveying the earthen space. Good enough.

In went the flowering crabapple tree, small burgundy buds on limb ends. Next, Bates, a Public Works employee, helped students peel down the burlap wrapper around the roots.

The tree could be 20 feet high when it’s full grown. “I’ll tell you in a few years,” he said.

Forty Lewiston High School students from Mike McGraw’s science class spent Monday morning planting trees and picking litter alongside the Exit 13 overpass on Lisbon Street Monday.

The Department of Transportation gave $3,000 for supplies, crabapple, red maple, ash and catalpa trees. Carrie Krzyzanski, an AmeriCorps volunteer, put everyone together. She’s organized five projects around the state for the DOT so far and has 10 more before her term is up in August.

Students hustled into orange vests, and after a quick warning – “People are doing like 80 miles per hour through here, be careful!” – they grabbed shovels and clippers and went to work with the help of the city crew.

“It’s a great time of year for our kids to get out of the classroom and do some practical application of science,” said McGraw, who had a sunburn started on his face before noon. He has a summer job at Public Works.

Students learn how to plant, how much oxygen trees give off and the value of having trees on their own properties someday, he said.

Nearly all of his sophomore students from Earth Systems II volunteered for Monday and Tuesday sessions, about 80 youngsters in all.

In just the first two-hour Monday morning session students had a pickup truck overflowing with trash, picking up fast-food wrappers, cardboard, a hubcap, plastic and “unmentionables. They must have been thrown from the highway,” McGraw said.

Students said the choice was easy between a day in class and a day outdoors. “Hey, it cleans up the environment,” said Rebekah Choate, 14.

Moments between shoveling and pickup left time for silliness as well.

Asked one sunglassed student: “Mr. McGraw, can you take a picture of some of us leaning on our shovels?”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.