‘My tree haz rain drop leevs’

Harold Schnell Elementary School’s Denise Moore called it a “tree-mendous success.”

Ohio State University Extension’s Jim Chatfield described it both as a great partnership and permanent connection.

A young student named Aurora simply drew a picture of a tree, the sun, and flowers in crayon and captioned it, “My tree haz rain drop leevs.”

All three were among the 550 people, including 450 first- through fifth-graders, who came together this summer for Harold Schnell Elementary’s first-ever Tree-mendous Day in Dayton’s Cox Arboretum MetroPark. The program celebrated trees and the good they do. Art, math, science, language, and history were part of the curriculum.

Teachers and parents from the school in West Carrollton, educators from the arboretum next door, Master Gardeners, Certified Volunteer Naturalists, and OSU Extension specialists teamed up to present it. An OSU Extension Innovative Grant to Extension’s Sustainable Development Initiative was a catalyst. Aim: to develop a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) science curriculum on trees.

“We wanted to show that while, yes, trees are pretty, they’re also an integral part of environmental health and more than pay for what they cost in terms of what they do environmentally,” said Chatfield, a horticulture specialist and member of Extension’s Why Trees Matter Signature Program.

Each of the school’s 40 “Bravo groups,” groups with students from all five grades, adopted an arboretum tree as their own. They identified, measured, photographed, and wrote about it. Then they calculated the value of its environmental services, such as cleaning the air and reducing home energy use, with a computer program called i-Tree. They’ll follow their tree through the year and beyond.

(To calculate the benefits of your own tree, go here.)

“The activities engaged our students’ minds, muscles, and imaginations,” said Moore, the school’s computer lab coordinator. “One teacher told me every student in her first-grade class remembered what type of tree their adopted tree is.”

“Seeing the students make that connection, seeing their excitement, seeing them involved in so many ways was very gratifying,” said Chatfield, who added that the plan is to develop the program as a model for other schools.

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