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Williamsport Elementary School students share green knowledge

May 03, 2010|By JANET HEIM

WILLIAMSPORT - Earth Day might be celebrated one day a year, but at Williamsport Elementary School, the Earth Week celebration is an extension of being a "green" school.

"It just emphasizes our whole green school program," third-grade magnet teacher Jenny Blum said.

A lengthy application process is required to become a green school, with continuing requirements to be recertified.

This year, Blum's magnet students were the teachers for a day of tree planting on April 22. The original planting date of April 21, planned as the habitat restoration day for the week, was delayed a day because of rain.

Blum's students explained to each group how to dig a hole, how far to place the seedlings' roots in the ground and the importance of mixing Terra Sorb in with the dirt that surrounds the young trees for added moisture retention.

The final step was placing a bamboo stake in the soil to hold the deer guards in place.

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"It's kind of fun. We are usually the students, but we get to teach," said Ella Stitt, 8.

Each class got to plant one tree and help clear grass around the trees planted on previous Earth Days. Students learned that the grass absorbs water that the young trees need.

"I think it's fun because we get to plant trees. We get to teach other kids how to plant trees, so they can do it at their house," said Abby Mason, 9, who has helped her mother plant three trees in her front yard at home.

Last year, black walnut and locust trees were planted. Evergreens planted the year before that act as wind and noise blocks. The evergreens will block noise from traffic on Interstate 81.

Three native Maryland plants - wild cherry, Red Osier dogwood and winterberry - were chosen for planting this year based on research by students to provide shelter and food for birds. The trees were planted in the field near the intermediate playground.

Each day of Earth Week included a different activity:

o Monday - building structures like bird feeders for the school courtyard and Bluebird Trail

o Tuesday - energy conservation, during which a schoolwide blackout was planned and students learned ways to save energy

o Wednesday - habitat restoration

o Thursday - recycling

o Friday - water conservation, including reducing water pollution

"It was a very busy week. The kids loved it. They had a blast," Blum said. "They do take it home with them," citing recycling as an example.

She added that the activities tie in well with the curriculum. For example, students figured out the area of the rain garden to determine how many plants and how much mulch they needed.

Blum said the school hopes to work with Springfield Middle School students using a Global Positioning System to mark every tree. They would connect to Google Earth for a map of the seedlings' locations.

In time, the newly planted trees will cut down on erosion on the school property. A rain garden has also been added for the same purpose.

Blum said Timothy Abe of Claud Kitchens Outdoor School at Fairview brought rain barrels to be used in the school courtyard to collect rainwater for watering during dry weather.

Williamsport Elementary is also home to two special trees. In 2009, one of its white oaks was a co-county champion for the Maryland Big Tree Program with a circumference of 16 feet 6 inches, height of 87 feet and an average crown width of 93 feet for a total score of 308 points.

A northern red oak at the school was the county champion, also with 308 points - 16 feet 7 inches, height of 87 feet and average crown width of 86 1/4 feet.

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