Steamboat Springs Hayden Middle School students labored happily under cotton ball clouds and a soft spring sun Wednesday.
The Global Youth Service Day event drew the grateful bunch out of the classroom and into the community. Sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders rotated among stations at The Haven Assisted Living Center, Hayden Cemetery and the skatepark.
Those who weren't at the skatepark couldn't wait to get there to tackle the most desirable task: painting. After a stint doing outdoor work and crafts at The Haven, the seventh-grade team descended on the skate ramps with buckets of blue hues.
"It's messy and fun," 13-year-old Kayla Dunckley said, explaining the job's appeal. The whole middle school, about 95 students, participated. They gardened, fixed up benches and cleaned windows at The Haven, as well as tidying the cemetery.
The day was educational, Kayla said.
Students learned "to take care of the community, because if you don't, it'll be really trashy and gross," she said.
Partners in Routt County arranged the event, organizer Virginia Lamneck said. The group consulted with the Hayden Town Board and the Parks and Recreation Department to choose projects.
Lisa Zirkle, a cemetery board member, said the cleanup at the graveyard was a huge help. "Given that Memorial Day is upon us, it's crucial that we get it done," she said.
Teachers and parents supervised the crews as they walked and biked from one site to the next. As she strolled with the stragglers from The Haven to the skatepark, math teacher Jenn Spurlock said the projects sent a message.
"Taking time out of the school day to do community service shows them it's that important," Spurlock said. "For me to be saying they don't need an afternoon of math is a message right there," she added with a laugh.
Jenny Ackerson of Partners in Routt County helped the seventh-graders paint a mural of a tree for the baseball fields at Dry Creek Park.
"I hope that they really enjoy themselves : and realize it's a fun thing, and if they give up their own time, they can see the difference," Ackerson said.
The projects left some students covered in paint. The hardest part, 12-year-old Amanda Warning said, was not getting dirty.
"But you love getting messy," Ackerson said.
"When I feel like it," Amanda replied.
Some students said they were old hands at odd jobs. At The Haven, seventh-grader Lane Moon stained a bench like a budding master craftsman.
"I've stained a lot before. We live on farms," he said, gesturing to his buddies sanding another bench. "I get put to work."
The 12-year-old went about his task, pausing briefly to compare staining a bench outdoors to sitting in class.
"Which one's better?" he asked. "I'd say working."