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Spring Garden Elementary first to plant trees as a part of countywide forestry grant

Spring Garden Elementary first to plant trees as a part of countywide forestry grant
Logan Miller and Brody Morgan-Lewis transport a tree for planting at Spring Garden Elementary on Tuesday. (KEN KOONS/STAFF PHOTO , Carroll County Times)

HAMPSTEAD - Fifth-graders Logan Miller and Brody Morgan-Lewis walked around the side of Spring Garden Elementary School Tuesday, both holding onto the bottom of a several-foot-tall tree.

The students and their classmates were transporting the trees from the back of the building to the planting site, and it was no easy task.

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"It wasn't exactly a light tree, it takes two of us but it's still heavy," Brody said. "It's hard work but it pays off in the end."

Fifth-graders at Spring Garden participated in an afforestation project, the first of five to occur at county elementary schools. Afforestation is the establishment of a forest or stand of trees in an area where there was no forest.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics coordinator Bryan Shumaker said Carroll County Public Schools received a grant from the Maryland Forestry Board partnering with the American Chestnut Foundation. The grant money will support afforestation, reforestation and restoration of the American chestnut tree projects at county schools.

The other county elementary schools that will be planting trees on school grounds this or next school year include Taneytown, Westminster, Mechanicsville and Robert Moton elementary schools.

After all the students placed their trees on the ground, Shumaker demonstrated how to plant them. He explained that the bottom of the tree trunk should be above the hole opening so the tree is able to breathe. Then the rest of the hole should be carefully filled with dirt.

"Take your time with this," he said. "We don't want a lot of air pockets."

After the tree was planted, students carefully mulched around them.

The tree planting exercise was the final step in a nearly year-long project. In the fall, the students learned about native and non-native plant and wildlife biodiversity. The students walked around the school grounds to identify native and non-native plants and observe different species of plants, animals and insects, according to STEM teacher Wendy Maloney.

The students decided the school ground was not very biodiverse with native plants, and despite the school having 10 blue bird boxes and providing a nesting area for the birds, the blue birds did not have a plentiful food source, Maloney said.

"They felt that we needed more trees to provide insects, nuts and berries for the bluebirds, hoping that this will attract them to nest in the boxes," she wrote in an email.

In order to secure the school system's grant money to plant trees to help provide such a food source, the students conducted research and created proposals to present to a panel of judges, including Shumaker.

In February, students tested the soil on school grounds for percentage hydrogen, moisture, phosphorus, potassium and nitrogen so they could determine the type of trees that should be planted in the area. They created a plan that included a map, cost and proposal for why their plan was the best, Maloney said.

This STEM lesson has allowed the students to put in place a real-life project that has involved math, science, reading, writing, engineering and technology, she wrote.

STEM teacher Diane Kelbaugh said the trees, which include the eastern redbud, serviceberry, buckeye, white pine, river birch and sweetbay magnolia, are all native to the Hampstead area. Every year, students complete a project on school grounds that benefits the environment.

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The project taught the students that they, as children, are capable of taking on the hard work of such a project.

"They learned that they can make a difference," she said. "They can have a plan and carry it through."

Fifth-grader Emily Hernandez said a lot of animals will use the trees for homes once they grow bigger.

"It just helps the environment a lot," she said. "This is a lot of fun for everyone."

The design of the trees is a combination of several student designs and includes an outdoor classroom in the center of the trees, she said. Future students will be able to learn and relax in the area.

Emily really enjoyed the hands-on activity and was surprised the students were allowed to do so much, she said.

"This was a good idea instead of just sitting in the classroom learning about it," Emily said.

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