Herkimer civics, landscape design students take next steps with Harmon Park revitalization plans

Herkimer Jr./Sr. High School civics and landscape design students recently returned to Harmon Park to do a needs assessment and a clean-up in preparation for making improvements to the space to benefit the school and community.

Herkimer students in social studies teacher Caroline Lampert’s civics capstone class and agriculture teacher Talia Baker’s landscape design class previously cleaned up the park in November. When they returned to the park on May 1, they collected a winter’s worth of trash that had built up and moved forward with the next steps of their plans.

“With a long winter of doing classroom work and research, it was nice to get back to the park with a plan and the funding to begin to fulfill the vision the students have for the park,” Lampert said.

Herkimer Central School District acquired Harmon Park and the nearby athletic fields in a “land swap” with the village of Herkimer last year. The civics capstone class chose renovation of the park as its 2023-24 project and is partnering with the landscape design class.

Under the guidance of social studies teachers Lampert and Laura Scalise, Herkimer is leading the way among Mohawk Valley schools in embracing New York state’s civic readiness initiative. The goal is to develop students’ awareness of, enthusiasm for and practical skill-building needed to affect civic change. Last year, three Herkimer students earned their Seal of Civic Literacy on their diploma, and three students are in the class this year: seniors Kyle Carney, James Hess and Nick Lamanna.

After cleaning up the trash, the civics and landscape design students plotted out where benches and a Little Free Library will be installed and determined what materials will be needed. Plans also include wildflower gardens, shrubs in place of the chain link fence and removal of several pieces of playground equipment to make room for an outdoor learning space.

“It’s great to get back outside and start to make some progress we’ll be able to see,” Carney said.

Student’s in agriculture classes started some seeds in the classroom and then began sowing flowers directly into the soil, Baker said.

“I’m excited to see how this collaborative project has engaged several classes and will provide a space for even more classes and teachers in Herkimer to enjoy this space as we develop it,” Baker said. “This will be a great project throughout the rest of this school year.”

The project will be funded in part by a $500 grant from Stewart’s Shops that civics students applied for in March. Students are currently researching and gathering information to apply for other grants this spring that could help refurbish the athletic courts, add lighting and potentially construct a pavilion.

“We’ll be graduating in June, but it will be good to know next year’s classes will be able to build on what we started here,” Lamanna said.

Landscape design student Hailey Gerhardt, a freshman, said she is looking forward to those next steps.

“I can’t wait to see some of our designs put into real life,” she said.


Student cleaning up at Harmon Park in front of playground

Herkimer Jr./Sr. High School senior James Hess picks up trash near the playground equipment at Harmon Park as part of a revitalization project civics and landscape design students are participating in.


Student cleaning up at Harmon Park in grass field

Herkimer Jr./Sr. High School freshman Hailey Gerhardt cleaning up at Harmon Park as part of a revitalization project civics and landscape design students are participating in.


Two students cleaning up at Harmon Park by playground equipment

Herkimer Jr./Sr. High School seniors Althea Brown and Destiny Luck help with the clean-up at Harmon Park as part of a revitalization project civics and landscape design students are participating in.


Herkimer logo