Elizabeth Rushing, 12, of Jefferson, Ore., a seventh-grader at Jefferson Middle School and a member of the Girl Scouts of Santiam Council in Salem, cleared and restored an overgrown nature garden at her former elementary school. Although Elizabeth no longer attends the school, her bus passes the garden every day. "It was a mess," said Elizabeth. "It used to be beautiful, with flowers and plants in the planters and bird houses around the garden. After years of vandalism and lack of upkeep, the garden just began to die."
Saddened by its condition, Elizabeth decided to restore the garden. After obtaining permission from the school, Elizabeth's grandfather helped her fill seven pickup trucks with weeds and debris, and the school's groundskeeper taught her how to cut down a dead tree with a chainsaw. She then asked local businesses for donations of wood, paint, plants and bark chips. With help from her grandpa, fellow Girl Scouts, students at the school, and other members of the community, Elizabeth built and installed new benches and birdhouses, planted flowers and native Oregon shrubs, and reconstructed a path around the garden. "The transformation of the garden from mess to beauty was amazing," said Elizabeth. "The students now have an area that can bring nature to the classroom."