Students filtered through the front doors of Lake Marion Elementary May 11 ready to test their green thumb skills.
Kim Menard, Lake Marion Elementary (LME) gifted education specialist and STEAM teacher, applied for and received a grant from Tree Trust, which provided the school with $2,500 for trees and bench materials; benches were built off site by Tree Trust volunteers. The grant also included a week’s use of the organization’s traveling “Our Town Trees Exhibit,” which included six museum-quality interactive stations to educate students on the value of trees.
On May 11, each class was assigned a tree to plant and spent about 45 minutes on the task. A
trained volunteer from Tree Trust introduced students to the tree and further emphasized all trees can do. The students dug the hole, and carried buckets of water and mulch. All of the sod removal was donated by Franklin Outdoor Services, and Centerpoint Energy volunteers assisted with advance digging and installing benches and more throughout the day. Parents also volunteered at the event.
“I wanted to take away obstacles that limit outdoor learning by making convenient areas for whole classes and individuals to encounter nature,” Menard said. “Trees can teach geometry, science, culture, history and inspire the arts, all while quietly cleaning our air and water, shading our school, and providing homes for animals.”
Two new areas were created for students to enjoy: One is an outdoor classroom with benches that can double as science work stations and a reading area near the playground, which includes stumps for sitting, jumping, or examining for science inquiry. Volunteers worked to create a Tree Trust designed pollinator garden in the front of the school as the second area.
At the end of the day, the entire school and all volunteers gathered in the back of the school to celebrate the day’s accomplishments. Members of the Lakeville South High School Marching Band played a number of songs, inspiring speeches were given, and all the students sang a song they’d been practicing with their music teacher.
Lakeville Mayor Doug Anderson, who also attended the end-of-the-day celebration, recognized the importance of the project and what the trees meant for the school and the city.
“Thank you everyone for contributing to our community through this project,” Anderson said.
During Menard’s turn to talk to the students, she reinforced the importance of “Harambee”, which means “let us all pull together.” Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai described the spirit of her tree planting campaign, inspired by the work of St. Barbe, as Harambee. Also, the students learned about Maathai after their “One Town’s Tree” exhibit.
Looking back on the day, Menard said, “[It was amazing to have] generations and cultures joyfully coming together for one task that will benefit those in the future more than themselves.”
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