The stewards of Pigeon Key received some help from youngsters recently. A team of about a dozen middle school students from Treasure Village Montessori arrived on the island ready to plant young mangroves they grew from seeds.

“It started at the beginning of the year. Each child brought in a propagule,” said Bobbi Burson, a middle school science and language arts teacher at Treasure Village Montessori in the Upper Keys.

The kids grew the trees behind the school, checking frequently to make sure the proper salinity was maintained. Planting them, however, became a bit of an engineering problem as well as serving to illustrate the importance of the mangrove.

“They have very high [ocean] flow on the south and west sides of the island. Normally, we just bang a PVC pipe into the much, but Pigeon Key has a hard bottom,” Burson said.

The kids did some brainstorming and came up with the idea of installing the PVC pipe within a cinderblock so the young mangroves couldn’t be washed away. They also transported all the materials to the site.

“Hopefully the mangroves will prevent erosion of our historic island by maintaining sediment deposits as well as protect the island and structures from high winds and hurricane surge in the event of a storm,” said Kelly McKinnon, executive director of the Pigeon Key Foundation.

Burson said she hopes to be able to carry out the project again, next year, with a new batch of students.

“They loved it. They worked so hard and every child felt they had an important role,” Burson said. “And I know they worked hard, they were all sleeping in the bus on the way back to the Upper Keys.”

Participating sixth and seventh-grade students included Sophie Kubida, Bethany Norling, Zane Turbessi, Daniel Wiesenberger, Abigail Zischka, Craig Tagliareni, Sarah Nekhaila, Maximus Stough, Mitchell Norman, Nick Norman, Ryeigh Zebendon, Katie Pooley, Lillia Adrian, Hunter Corliss and Keifer Kemmer.