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3500 trees growing in London schools

Eighteen London area schools are growing 3,500 trees this winter as part of the School Community Tree Challenge – a new program to engage students in planting trees in their own communities.

“We engage our students when we offer hands-on learning experiences,” said Erin Mutch, TVDSB Environmental Education and Management Coordinator. “This particular project empowers young students to make a difference in their community.” 

Julie Ryan, Director of Programs at ReForest London, said that growing seedlings is an excellent way for children and youth to be active contributors to the future of their own communities. “The trees they are starting today will be the urban forest of tomorrow.”

ReForest London, one of the five organizations collaborating on the program, is providing seedling kits that include seeds, a sample of young starter seedlings, pots and soil. Teachers will use a detailed Teacher Guide to lead the hands-on project.

Students will conduct their own investigations while growing the trees, such as planting the seeds, watering them daily and waiting. As the baby trees grow, students will make observations, record their growth and compare growth between various species. In the spring, these seedlings will be ready for planting. 

Students are growing a number of species native to southwestern Ontario, including White Pine, White Spruce, Sugar Maple, Redbud, Burr Oak and Red Oak. Once the trees are planted, students will register each one as part of the Million Tree Challenge, another way they can be active citizens of the Forest City.

Shirley Gelinas, Vice Principal at St. Marguerite d'Youville Catholic School, said the seedling initiative serves to Kick-Start their participation in the School Community Tree Challenge. Besides helping to make our city greener with seedlings, children are learning more about their role in caring for our environment. 

Participating schools: 

  • Elementary: Centennial Central Public School, Clara Brenton Public School, Eagle Heights Public School, Ecole Elementaire Marie Curie, Emily Carr Public School, Knollwood Park Public School, Lord Roberts Public School, Northridge Public School, Orchard Park Public School, Rick Hansen Public School, Sir John A Macdonald Public School, St. Marguerite d'Youville Catholic Elementary School, and Victoria Public School
  • Secondary: Catholic Central High School, H.B. Beal Secondary School, Regina Mundi Catholic College
  • Alternative Education: Cornerstone 1 & U-Turn (TVDSB)

The School Community Tree Challenge is a collaboration of the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority, Middlesex London Health Unit, TVDSB, London District Catholic School Board and ReForest London. Funding for the program is provided by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, TD Bank, and the Arcangelo Rea Family Foundation.

Here are a just few examples of what students are doing in some participating schools:

  • Catholic Central High School: Students in the Environmental Leadership Program will raise seedlings and host a seedling sale within the community this May. 
  • Ecole Elementaire Marie Curie: Seedlings will be grown through the winter with primary division students, and sold as a school fundrasier within the school community, in addition to planting a number of shade trees and windbreak trees in the schoolyard to benefit student health and increase biodiversity. 
  • Emily Carr Public School: In addition to helping bring more shade trees to Nor’West Optimist Park – a need recognized by students - Primary division classes (JK-Grade 3) will be growing more than 250 seedlings for their community. 
  • Lord Roberts Public School: Junior students (Grades 5/6) will be growing seedlings to distribute within school and neighbourhood community at the school’s “Gathering in the Garden” outdoor event in May.
  • St. Marguerite d'Youville Catholic Elementary School: Students and teachers are growing several hundred seedlings this winter as they prepare for their spring School Community Tree Challenge activities, which also include a Tree Sale (May 2/15) and the installation of their new Reading Circle.
  • Victoria Public School: Six classes will be growing several hundred seedlings to be distributed within the community this year and sold at a community tree sale in spring 2015. In addition, the school will be undergoing a dramatic outdoor transformation this year, adding many new gardens and trees to their urban property.