2010-05-06 / Front Page

Trees grow as sixth-grade fades away

Students commemorate Arbor Day, end of state testing by planting 25 trees
BY JENNIFER KOHLHEPP Staff Writer
Last week’s state testing exhausted students and teachers alike. While many classes opted to darken their rooms to watch movies during the last few hours of the school day on Friday, two technology teachers at Millstone Middle School took their students outside to get some fresh air and sunshine and to plant trees.

Millstone Township Middle School’s Emily Bennett (l) receives a handful of mulch from Kelsea Corvasce to place around a tree that they planted with Erin Magee under the supervision of technology teacher Ellen Osborn during an Arbor Day celebration at the school on April 30. JEFF GRANIT staff Millstone Township Middle School’s Emily Bennett (l) receives a handful of mulch from Kelsea Corvasce to place around a tree that they planted with Erin Magee under the supervision of technology teacher Ellen Osborn during an Arbor Day celebration at the school on April 30. JEFF GRANIT staff Teachers Kim Keune’s and Ellen Osborn’s classes were also tired on the last day of testing but they didn’t want to ignore their Arbor Day and everyday duty to help the environment. The sixth-grade technology classes have had a partnership with the New Jersey Tree Foundation to plant 25 trees on the school grounds for the past three years.

Clockwise from top: Grace Giffen plants a seedling at Millstone Township Middle School during the sixth-grade technology classes’ Arbor Day celebration on April 30. Michael Khodash (l-r) looks for another shovel while Robby Hetrick and Parker Adamo start digging a hole. Danielle Tegano and Cayla McLaughlin start to cleanup after the planting. More photos at gmnews.com. PHOTOS BY JEFF GRANIT staff Clockwise from top: Grace Giffen plants a seedling at Millstone Township Middle School during the sixth-grade technology classes’ Arbor Day celebration on April 30. Michael Khodash (l-r) looks for another shovel while Robby Hetrick and Parker Adamo start digging a hole. Danielle Tegano and Cayla McLaughlin start to cleanup after the planting. More photos at gmnews.com. PHOTOS BY JEFF GRANIT staff Millstone Middle School Principal Matthew Howell said, “I think it’s absolutely wonderful. It let’s students understand that the school community is connected to the greater environment. It allows them to take ownership and have respect for their surroundings.”

Keune, a former science teacher, who tries to impress “going green” and “giving back to the environment” on her students, began applying for tree foundation grants when the new middle school opened a few years ago.

“We’re working on students realizing that their surroundings and environment are really important,” she said. “They’re learning to keep it nice and to add to it, not take away from it.”

Osborn said she was more than happy to have her class join Keune’s endeavor.

“Sixth-grade is a good place to start teaching them respect for their environment,” Osborn said.

The trees also have practical purposes, such as providing more greenery, shade and wildlife habitat on the school property, Keune said.

The technology teachers instructed their students on how to plant green ash, eastern redbud and silky dogwood seedlings and then supervised the sharing of gardening equipment to beautify the area near the school bus loop along Baird Road. The 35 students in both classes worked in small groups digging holes, planting root systems, filling gaps with mulch, and watering and staking the trees.

Sixth-grader Kelsea Corvasce said, “The earth does favors for us. Why can’t we do favors for the earth?”

She added that the trees make the school site “more eco-friendly and green.”

While sixth-graders Jillian Walker and Cecelia Weislow planted their tree, Jillian noted that trees help the environment and the earth.

Cecelia added, “They give us more air and help us with pollution.”

Sixth- grader Tyler Patterson put extra effort into the project, digging holes for many of his friends. While working alongside of Tyler, sixth-grader Luke Newman said that the students were adding “grace to the environment.”

Although the students planted the seedlings, the project was a community effort. Teachers collected empty plastic containers to use as watering cans. Staff and parents donated gardening tools, Asperocolas Farm in Millstone donated mulch and Wegmans donated water and snacks for the students.

“We didn’t have to buy anything,” Keune said, adding that art department students painted stakes to mark the tree locations and keep the seedlings safe from lawn mowers.

“Every day when the students are leaving on the school bus, they can look out the window and see the progress of their trees,” Keune said.

The green ash, expected to grow 60-70 feet tall, will have smooth or toothed margin leaflets, inconspicuous flowers and yellow fall color. The eastern redbud, which can grow 20-30 feet tall, will have wide, heartshaped green leaves and very showy purplish pink pea-like flowers that bloom in April to early May. The silky dogwood grows 6-10 feet tall and has creamy, white flowers that bloom in late May and early June.

The trees will always remind students of Arbor Day 2010 and the fading days of the 2009-10 school year.

“We had a chance to be with friends and to have fun planting trees for a good cause,” sixth-grader Meredith McAfee said. “It was fun to hang outside after such a big test.”

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