RICHMOND, Va. -- The Arbor Day energy was strong in Richmond’s East End on Tuesday morning at Fairfield Court Elementary.
Fifth graders and adults alike chanted “150!” ahead of the 150th Arbor Day celebration set for Friday.
Dominion Energy workers helped Fairfield Court Elementary School fifth graders plant two red bud trees at the front entrance of the school as a part of the Plant It Project, an environmental education program that teaches the importance of trees.
Students also learned about the role trees play in the overall health of the environment. The celebration was a first for many of the students.
“These current fifth graders did not complete their third-grade year due to COVID. In their fourth-grade year, they were completely virtual. So, we wanted to embrace this opportunity with some experiential learning,” Nsombi Morrison, the Academic Dean for Fairfield Court Elementary, said.
“They also have the opportunity to learn what trees do for the environment. Because they all receive a free tree seedling and a wildflower seed packet, they can go home plant their own tree, and as their minds grow, the trees growing with them. It’s really to create a generation of environmental stewards,” said Shai West, the director of the Plant It Project.
The students had dozens of questions about how to keep the trees healthy. But, tree coverage also helps with the health of communities as a whole, according to experts.
“Planting trees cools the temperature, cleans the air, reduces the amount of runoff coming from neighborhoods, increases property values, just makes safer, more connected neighborhoods with trees people can meet under,” University of Richmond environmental professor Todd Lookingbill said.
In order to help the students remain connected to their new trees, they even got to name them. The fifth graders landed on April and Gerald for their new red buds.
“Making the connection that this is our tree. They’ll come back and help take care of it. Know they are community members and stakeholders in this whole Phaup Street,” Morrison said. “So taking ownership, I think that’s the biggest part of all this.”
“Really to raise a generation that is environmentally aware, environmentally friendly. That they can get their hands dirty and get involved in the environment and in the community is really important to us,” West said.
The Plant It Project provides resources for teachers and families to do similar projects year-round.