School grows a forest, one planting at a time

Shade: Pupils,teachers and sponsors hope the new trees at Joppa View Elementary will enrich the school for years.

November 10, 1999|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Watching children plant 117 saplings at Joppa View Elementary School in Baltimore County yesterday, Melvin Noland pointed to a hill near the school's parking lot.

"See that slope there," he said. "Someday, all that could be trees and shrubs."

A member of Baltimore County's forestry board, Noland knows the value of a tree and how small hands can rebuild forests and wetlands demolished by shopping centers and housing tracts.

He was part of the team of adults and children who broke up root balls and hefted buckets of mulch and water at the White Marsh school, which has stands of trees nearby but none close enough to shade classrooms and playgrounds.

"Bottom line: We needed some shade," said Anne Phillips, who helped fellow fifth-grade teacher Pat Schuster organize the tree-planting with aid from IKEA, American Forests, a Washington-based conservation group, and Noland's forestry board.

"During the summer, if we wanted to take the kids outside for class or a picnic, there just wasn't enough shade," Phillips said. "There just weren't enough trees."

Although it will take a few years for the eastern redbud trees and winterberry shrubs to grow, that didn't diminish the fun yesterday.

"I want this tree to grow big," said Michael Singletary, 10, a fourth-grader who lives in Old Forge, as he wrapped his hand around a skinny, leafless branch.

Helping Michael and his classmate Ashley Downs, also 10, of Southfield, were IKEA co-workers Aimee Heilman, 25, of Joppatowne, and Tim Mekolon, 22, of Dundalk.

"Who said they wanted to get dirty?" Mekolon asked a gaggle of children gathered around a potted sapling and a hole. "This is fun because you know you used to be like them," Mekolon said.

During an assembly before the tree-planting, Joppa View children listened to a speech by fifth-grader Erik Hoffman, 10, of Perry Hall, who talked about the importance of trees in the ecosystem and why people should take care of trees.

"More and more trees get chopped down every day," Erik said. "Usually it's for paper and furniture. Most people say there are more trees, but I think that trees are getting chopped down rapidly. Trees give us oxygen, so chopping down a tree is like destroying a lifesaver."

That's what American Forests, the nation's oldest nonprofit citizen conservation group, keep telling people. It is why the group works with IKEA to reforest the Chesapeake Bay watershed, said senior vice president Richard J. Crouse, who attended the Joppa View event.

"There will be a forest here someday," Crouse said, eyeing the school's treeless traffic circle. "And that means birds and other wildlife will return."

Joppa View principal Russell H. Jones hopes to take advantage of the critters' homecoming by expanding a small wetlands area at one corner of the campus. Someday, Jones hopes to turn the pond into an outdoor classroom, he said.

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