by Katie Wolpert
An ancient Chinese proverb states that “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today.” Or for North Fork Elementary, last Friday, November 2nd. And why stop with just one tree, when you can plant 16 of them?
As part of our on-going project with North Fork Elementary to help engage their students in their community, the upper elementary students spent the morning planting 16 fruit trees in their schoolyard. The lower elementary students came out to observe their work and learn their own lessons about the project in the afternoon.
As part of the Cacapon Institute’s CommuniTree program, Rosey Santerre from the WV Division of Forestry and Connor Roessler of the Cacapon Institute helped the students plant 4 apple trees, 2 apricots, 4 peaches, 2 asian pears, 2 persimmons, and 2 plums. They talked about the different types of trees, the planting process and tools that are used, and they talked with the students about their jobs in the forest industry.
After planting the trees, the students learned about nutrition specific to fruits and vegetables, the overall health of their schoolyard and how these things relate to their physical and mental well-being.
Finally, Experience Learning instructors introduced games to reinforce these lessons and get the kids running around.
Can We Plant More Trees?
After the tree programming, students of all ages took to the forgotten corners of the schoolyard to clean up litter. Isi Heydt, program director from Experience Learning, said that she was “worried that there wasn’t going to be enough trash for the afternoon groups.” The schoolyard didn’t look particularly bad. But, she said, “you would not believe how much trash those kids found. And they were REALLY excited about it too.”
Much like our recent program with Franklin Middle School, the kids took the task upon themselves and made it their purpose to do a good job of it. Each group tried to lift the bag of trash that they collected and often they had collected so much that they could not do so. As humans of all ages, helping out within our communities lights a fire that warms us from the inside out.
John Jenkins, principal at North Fork, was impressed by the lack of discipline issues during the day’s activities. All the students were engaged, interested, and excited to be a part of the project. A 6th grade boy asked at the end, “Can we plant more trees?”
Next up for North Fork students, with a sparkling clean schoolyard and newly-planted orchard, will be to put themselves to work planning, designing, and building their raised garden beds for the spring.
Those who planted these trees will be long gone from the halls of North Fork Elementary before they bear a crop of fruit, but they will always benefit from the experience of planting those trees and the lessons they learned while doing so.
Many thanks to Circleville resident Mark Halterman who donated his time and tractor to dig holes for the trees.