By Spencer Seymour
Grade eight DCVI students got out of the classroom this week for a fun and productive experience. The students went out to an unused patch of grass beside the school track and planted 27 new trees, all native species.
The exercise was the culmination of a group project that students have been working on since the beginning of the school year. Ian Morton and his students looked at the schoolyard and its suitability as a habitat for wildlife. Students then developed a series of action plans to get them thinking about ways to improve their school, as well as improving their researching and problem-solving skills.
The students that put forward the idea were Caitlynn Jantzi, Shane Persaud, Kelsi Ristau, and Anna Standeaven. All four were recognized by Morton as well as each other for the incredible work they did, taking an idea and actually making it come to fruition using their own hands.
Morton said it’s very important for young people to feel empowered to try to make a positive impact on the habitat and climate.
“Some kids put up bird feeders, we have some birdhouses on the yard, a squirrel house, and feeder,” Morton said, talking about the different student proposals. “We applied for a grant called a ‘Go Wild’ grant and it’s through World Wildlife Fund [WWF] and it’s for rehabilitation, rejuvenation or reclamation of natural habitat.” They received $500 from the WWF while the students were able to raise over $100 on their own to put towards buying trees.
“I think actually being able to go out and complete the entire thing that we started was just really cool,” Jantzi said. Ristau also added how hard they worked in regards to not just the actual tree planting, but also their fundraising efforts while they waited for their grant.
Vanni Azzano of the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority has been helping young people plant new trees for many years. He was on hand to help with the effort and was ecstatic to see young people taking the initiative to make this project happen, as well as their overflowing enthusiasm.
That enthusiasm of the students was very apparent, especially during the process of packing down dirt on top of the tree roots. After Azzano suggested doing a ‘tree dance’ to pack the dirt down, Jantzi and Ristau took things to the next level by inventing a ‘tree cha-cha’, showing the commitment of the group to not only planting trees but also to having fun while doing so.