Making the Grade

By Guglielmino, Janine B. | American Forests, Autumn 2000 | Go to article overview

Making the Grade


Guglielmino, Janine B., American Forests


AMERICAN FORESTS' "A Tree For Every Child" program is off and running. Teachers and kids tell us what they like.

"Every day [my students] move me so by their contributions--not getting ice cream at lunch, emptying their piggy banks, asking their parents to give up something--in order to save money to plant trees."

Earth Day is a time to celebrate the world around us and renew our commitment to care for the natural world. That spirit is embodied in the efforts of children who this year showed that regardless of your age, your actions can make a difference.

Teacher Hilary Prager and her sixth grade class at Middletown, New York's Monhagen Middle School embody that spirit. Many of Prager's students receive subsidized lunches and loans, but the children sacrificed to plant trees with AMERICAN FORESTS' A Tree For Every Child program. Across the county 225 schools took part, planting more than 40,000 trees with their donations.

The concept was simple: For each $1 children raised, AMERICAN FORESTS planted a tree in a damaged forest ecosystem. Schools that raised at least $100 received a "Moon Sycamore" tree, descended from seeds carried to the moon and back aboard Apollo XIV, to plant at their school.

Each school that requested information about the program received a poster and a free learning guide that taught students how trees keep buildings cool and how they provide homes and food for animals, birds, and insects. Participating classes received a certificate large enough for all the students to sign. The educational materials were funded in part by specialty retailer Eddie Bauer.

The program resounded with both students and teachers, many who wrote AMERICAN FORESTS to say they plan to participate again next year. They praised the program for a variety of reasons.

"I liked that there was a goal the students could work for, something concrete that they could understand," said Donna Shelley, a teacher at East Rochester, New York's Lois E. Bird School. "In their age group, they could understand that people are cutting down trees and they need to plant them."

Shelley's six-person class consists of emotionally disturbed boys aged 8 to 11. They collected money by walking door to door at school with handmade signs. Wanting to track their earnings motivated the boys to learn counting, she said.

East Rochester's Prager wrote of being touched by the sacrifices of her class. "They have such giving heart[s] that whatever they have, they want to share," Prager said in a later interview.

Children found creative ways to raise money. At Beacon Day School in Oakland, California, fourth and fifth graders sold lemonade during a heat wave. Third graders at Cleghorn Elementary School in rural Elvira, Wisconsin, collected 24,500 pennies in one week. Other students held bake sales or recycled aluminum cans.

At Lawson Elementary School in Florissant, Missouri, Sandy Olsen's third, fourth, and fifth grade after-school students tapped into their love for animals. Students who collected $1 for Global ReLeaf taped a photo of their favorite pet on a tree cut from green and brown construction paper. Two girls arrived early each morning to arrange the paper trees along the walls of the school cafeteria.

The children loved the idea of planting their own tree, Olsen said. …

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