When it comes to noxious weed education, the earlier the better.
Brittany Ellis, second grade teacher at Ophir School, not only educates her students on how to identify them, but also helps the kids take their noxious weed studies to practice.
Every year Ellis engages her students in a service learning project that focuses on noxious weeds - last year the kids made colorful posters that were displayed around town. This year, the new class of second graders got their hands a little dirtier in the name of a healthy environment.
Last Friday the eager second graders headed to the Big Sky Community Park to do a noxious weed pull accompanied by Mike Jones, assistant coordinator and foreman of the Gallatin County Weed District. The group was on the hunt for such noxious offenders as Canadian thistle, hoary alyssum, yellow toadflax, and oxeye daisy. They didn't have to look long - the weeds were everywhere.
"We had an uncountable amount of weeds!" exclaimed Luke Kirchmyar during a recap of the day, noting that a majority of the weeds they picked were the tiny white flowered hoary alyssum.
Charlotte Wilson, 7, was quick to point out that most of the noxious weeds they found "are really, really pretty."
Classmate Kassidy Boersma agreed, citing some of the lesson she'd learned.
"People thought they were pretty plants and brought them over here from Europe and Asia, and they spread," she said, stretching her arms out widely to show the extent of the weed's invasion.
The kids spent the day filling a total of five "huge!" bags full of the weeds - so heavy, said Kirchmyar, "that we had to carry the bags over our shoulders."
But the kids did more than just pull weeds. They also counterattacked the spread of one species with a little help from weevils - little bugs that love to chomp on the picky, purple-headed musk thistles.
Ellis kept the bugs in the classroom fridge before releasing them to feast on the thistles.
And even beyond weed picking and weevil placing, the second grade noxious weed project was also created to aid the Forest Service. The locations of the certain types of weeds the kids found were placed onto a GPS to help the Forest Service map the location on the various different types of weeds and their exact coordinates- a helpful way of looking at the bigger picture of the spread.
It was unanimously agreed that the day at the Community Park eradicating their noxious weed enemies was a lot of fun, but, as Wilson put it, "Pulling weeds sure does hurt your back."