Students dig in as part of tree-planting project

$18,000 grant from bay group funds effort


Dundalk High School junior Joseph Matthew Wallace showed up at the park in sweatpants and boots, ready to begin digging holes.

He dug into hard ground until the hole was big enough to plant a tree. After about two hours, Wallace, 17, had planted five by himself.

"I think it's a good experience," Wallace said. "It's better for kids to be involved in the environment."

Wallace was one of 22 students from Dundalk High who worked in Lynchcove Park by Stansbury Pond yesterday as part of a Baltimore County public schools forest buffer restoration project.

Funded by an $18,000 grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust, 17 high schools in the county have been participating since April 2, said Pat Ghingher, outdoor science senior teacher and naturalist team leader.

The grant was used for transportation, trees and equipment, so "everything's free for the kids," Ghingher said.

She hopes that by the end of the project on May 2, the county will have 700 more trees. The Dundalk students planted about 30 yesterday.

Dundalk teacher Eric Benjamin opened the field trip to his three environmental science classes. Only 10 students chose to skip the day trip, he said.

After a quick demonstration of the proper way to plant a tree, the students got started. They carried trees to different spots along the edge of the pond and started breaking ground. But not without problems.

One student, who was just starting a hole, bent a pick when it hit the ground.

"This is like cement," Ghingher said of the ground. "It's the worst we've had yet."

Despite the difficulty, Ghingher said, she was glad to get the students involved.

"I'm so excited. What a nice thing to give back," Ghingher said. "The thing that's important is they're planting trees in their own communities."

Through volunteering, the students can "value their environment and become stewards of their environment," she said. "And the community sees high school kids do positive things."

The project is the first event of its kind in Baltimore County, Ghingher said. She hopes to continue it each year and make it part of the curriculum for environmental science students.

"I'm constantly looking for ways to get students out of the classroom. Would you take environmental science and never get out? No. You've got to get out and do something about it," she said.

"The more you do it, the more you understand the value."

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