From March 7 to 14, businesses, civic organizations and schools will plant trees all over the state to commemorate the value of trees to our existence and to wildlife.
Although no events are planned for Santa Cruz County, the Nature Academy, a charter school located at San Lorenzo Valley Middle School, has been planting trees as part of the garden program for 13 years. In their outdoor classroom, students experience the life cycles of plants, how what they grow in the earth transforms into food for their tables, and how to compost and amend the vermiculture.
Vermiculture is a recycling process where waste is turned into fertilizer using worms. Student worm wranglers raid the cafeteria for food scraps and gather paper, which the worms love, for their bins.
“I guess the kids could recycle their papers and say ‘the worms ate my homework’ as an excuse,” joked Melissa Stockton, a co-director with Carter Milhous at the academy.
“Students love planting trees, because it’s such an immediate accomplishment, unlike the rest of the garden, where plants die and are replanted constantly,” Stockton said. “Years after they have left the academy, they will come back here. The kids are so tied to the garden and particularly to the trees.”
J. Sterling Morton, who founded Arbor Day in 1872 in Nebraska, believed that trees were superior to marble as a memorial to people or events.
"How much more enduring are the animate trees of our own planting," he said. "Other holidays repose upon the past. Arbor Day proposes for the future.”
Stockton told me, “Although all the students have issues, they just disappear when you get in the garden. Every student shines.”
The Nature Academy serves, educates and works with seventh- and eighth-grade students and their parents who:
- Wish to participate in an experiential science-based program.
- Willingly take responsibility for their own or their children's education.
- Are interested in an integrated academic curriculum.
“There are no other schools like this in Santa Cruz County,” Stockton said.
That’s probably the reason a lottery is needed for the 25 spots available, versus the 60 to 70 applications to enter the academy each year.
To learn more about the Nature Academy, visit www.na.slvusd.org/.
Now, go plant a tree!
Carol Carson is a nature writer and educator. She has been a docent at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and taught classes on Big Basin State Park for UCSC Extension. She holds a master’s degree in education. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.