parkside Elementary School students are helping increase the city’s tree canopy through a partnership with the Rotary Club of Columbus.
The organization worked with the school’s i-Care after school program for three weeks in April to educate students about the importance of trees and to identify the types of trees can be found in Columbus and across the state.
The partnership was formed after Rotary clubs around the globe were asked by Rotary international president Ian Riseley to plant a tree for each of its 1.2 million members, said Mark Pillar, Rotary community service chair. In Columbus, the group has about 100 members.
“We wanted to do more than just plant trees around the city so we partnered with parks and recreation to put them where they are needed most,” Pillar said. “We then planted some trees with their help along the People Trail near Haw Creek.”
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The students’ involvement in the project culminated April 26 as 50 children in the i-Care program ranging from pre-kindergarten to sixth grade had an opportunity to help plant a tree near the front entrance at Parkside.
Darren Rutan, owner of Rutan’s Landscaping in Columbus, brought a 10-foot Sugar Tyme flowering tree to be planted and asked for student volunteers to help him plant it. Hands went up immediately after he asked whether anyone would be interested in helping him dig a hole.
“Are you ready to get this tree into the ground?” Rutan asked, prompting the group to shout “Yes!”
Students were also given seedling pine trees that could be planted at their homes as part of the club’s tree planting initiative.
Third grader Josmar Hernandez said he planned to put the pine tree in his backyard to replace another tree that was cut down.
Fourth-grader Zachary Fedor said his tree would be planted in his front or backyard. “Trees help all of us breathe,” Fedor said.
Rotary decided to reach out to Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. elementary school students to help students understand the importance of trees, said Roger Brinkman, president of the organization.
The education geared toward children also involved groups such as the Sierra Club, the Oak Heritage Conservancy and the Sycamore Land Trust, a Bloomington nonprofit organization.
“We thought it would be great to partner with elementary kids, the next generation, to start thinking about being sustainable and the environment,” Brinkman said.
Rutan, who was joined by his daughter Maddi at the school, said he hoped students would recognize the importance of their work.
“What Rotary is doing is phenomenal,” he said.
The i-Care program, which provides care for students before and after school, tries to focus on educational activities for BCSC students to enjoy, said Anna Villa, i-Care program director at Parkside. The tree-planting project with Rotary was an example of that, she said.
“I think it was a really great opportunity to help with community involvement and the environment and how to protect it,” Villa said. “We’re trying to blend the classroom (education) so that they can get different opportunities with different grades and staff.”
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The Rotary Club of Columbus planted 15 to 20 trees along Haw Creek shortly after Thanksgiving, and also plans to place 10 to 20 Linden trees at Columbus Signature Academy Lincoln Campus as part of the school’s Linden Project.
The project is modeled off an original concept for a playground developed in 1966 that did not happen. The name of project was selected as a tribute to architect Gunnar Birkerts who designed the original concept and called for Linden trees in the design.
The playground project, expected to be completed by the start of the 2018-19 school year, will include public gathering spaces, outdoor classrooms and other features.