Duval students plant trees using math, science skills

Duval Elementary fifth graders, from left, David Glass, 11, Jaelyn Hargrove, 11, and Deanna Williams, 10, plant a winged elm tree with Herb Poole, a tree surgeon with the City of Gainesville Public Works.

DOUG FINGER/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 at 2:33 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 at 2:33 p.m.

Thanks to trees donated by the city of Gainesville, fifth-grade students at Duval Elementary Fine Arts Academy participated in a hands-on program to plant Maple, Magnolia and Elm trees while also refreshing their math and science knowledge.

The interactive tree-planting program, which involved planting six trees, took place recently at Duval. The program included a classroom discussion of trees and their benefits, followed by an outdoors hands-on tree planting activity that included preparing the soil, taking measurements, shoveling dirt, applying mulch and watering.

Carmella Osteen, a science coach at Duval, said the program was a success.

“The children got hands-on experience planting trees and learning how to enhance our environment and protect trees,” Osteen said. “They learned why trees are so valuable.”

In the classroom, city of Gainesville arborist Mark Siburt and Linda Demetropoulos, nature and culture manager for the city of Gainesville, led an interactive discussion that explored the benefits of trees, including serving as habitats for animals, producers of oxygen, food, energy conservers, beautification, and other benefits.

Siburt said the discussion focused on trees in the urban forest and the students offered good ideas and information.

“They impressed me with the knowledge they have,” Siburt said. “The teachers are doing a good job here.”

Demetropoulos said it was as successful program.

“It's wonderful,” Demetropoulos said. “I love working with the community and providing benefits to east Gainesville, Personally, I love working with kids.”

During the tree planting component, Earline Luhrman, urban forestry inspector for the city, and Herb Poole, tree surgeon for the city, discussed the types of trees and the planting process.

The students then measured the depth and circumference of the pots the trees were in to determine the size of the planting hole. Then, using shiny gold shovels, they helped to dig the hole and used the shovel to break up the root ball, Then, they helped to plant, apply mulch and water the tree.

Sharon Crain, a math coach at Duval, said the tree-planting program served to incorporate real-world experiences with math and science that can also be used for future class discussions.

“It extends the learning beyond the classroom,” Crain said.

Alex Gore, a teacher at Duval, said the program engaged the students.

“The city (staff) explained cool facts,” Gore said. “When we talk about science, we can come back to the trees we planted today.”

The students, too, enjoyed the experience.

Jalen Jordan said it was a good math and science program. Besides learning the correct way to plant trees, Jalen said he learned that bugs are good because they eat bacteria on trees.

Tyce Stacy liked the program. “It brought math and science outside the class so we can experience nature,” said Tyce, who is planning to be a scientist.

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