NORTH OGDEN -- Parks and playgrounds were filled with kids Friday afternoon, but they weren't swinging on swings or kicking soccer balls -- they were hard at work.
More than 650 students from North Ogden Junior High School spent their Earth Day beautifying their city.
Students laughed and smiled as they worked after being shuttled to nine locations.
Students painted benches and murals, spread bark, prepared the new community garden, filled hundreds of sandbags and pulled weeds.
Vice Principal Rod Belnap said students have been learning about giving service as part of the school's yearlong Educational Service Learning program.
The school even created a blog to discuss such virtues as hard work, discipline and service.
"You can talk about it all you want, but we wanted to see it come into action," Belnap said.
"These kids have worked their guts out," said teacher Amanda Dahl.
Last fall, Belnap contacted the city to see if there were services the students could do. He wanted to do it in the spring before end-of-level testing started, so Earth Day lined up perfectly in the plan.
Lorrie Frazier, special events coordinator for community services, was a little overwhelmed with the idea of coordinating 650 students, but soon realized the school was more than willing to work hard to see everything happen.
She was thrilled with the results.
"It has just been totally awesome and amazing," she said as she looked over the raised garden beds filled with mulch and ready for planting at the city's new community garden.
"I can't believe all the man hours we have saved -- at least 600."
The benefit of all of the service will be far-reaching for the city during tight budget times when the parks department is very short-staffed, she said.
Belnap got all of the teachers and the PTSA on board to help as well.
"It's great seeing our teachers engaged and working with these kids," he said.
The school counselors also helped teachers make assignments and set up a bus schedule. Students wore wristbands to signify where they were assigned to work for the afternoon.
Students were encouraged to bring yard tools and, for each tool brought in, they were given a ticket for a drawing after the service was complete.
Students worked as they talked about the experience.
"I mean, it's Earth Day, so it's a good thing to help the environment," said seventh-grader Trevor Heywood.
Fellow seventh-grader Jaymee Owen said the time went by fast as she worked alongside her friends. "We were working as team, and it just felt good."
Teachers and school administrators applauded students for their hard work, and Belnap said he'd like the day of service to become a school tradition.
"This city does a lot for these kids, and it's good for them to see that the work doesn't happen by itself," he said.
"Kids don't always know how to serve, and this is how we teach them to get it done."