NHS Club Sees The ‘Roots’ Of Its Labor Sprout Around Town
The Newtown High School Environmental Club’s partnership with Tree-Plenish to offset the school’s paper use by planting trees has produced “roots” of the students’ labor.
“We had a total of 241 trees that were or will be planted in total,” said NHS science teacher and Environmental Club co-advisor Karolyn Baumgartner, who oversees the club with NHS science teacher Stephanie Paulsson.
According to Baumgartner, the goal of the tree planting project is to offset the paper used in one year at the school. To meet that goal, students marketed and sold trees to residents. Residents then picked up trees on April 24 to plant on their own; some NHS students planted purchased trees when requested, and another group of students planted trees at Nettleton Preserve, also on April 24.
Near the start of December, Tree-Plenish, a student-led effort to make high schools more sustainable according to its website, tree-plenish.org, partnered with 85 schools, including NHS, to help build sustainable communities through youth engagement, as previously reported in The Newtown Bee. Tree-Plenish is a student-led 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
As students gathered at Nettleton Preserve Saturday morning, Newtown Forest Association (NFA) Director Harvey Pessin was ready. Leaning against his car, which was parked on the side of Great Hill Road, Pessin pointed out to the students the view behind them — the rolling hills of Newtown with the spires of buildings like Newtown Congregational Church, Trinity Episcopal Church, and Newtown Meeting House reaching out beyond tree branches and new spring growth.
When the club offered to plant saplings, Pessin said he had thought about the best place to put them and determined the south side of a thicket would be ideal. Walking the students down the hill along the thicket, Pessin pointed out a tree that was planted years ago but not maintained. It is important, he said, to maintain the trees once they are added to a space.
Students began talking about the potential of coming back to maintain the saplings as they grow. There was clear excitement at the idea.
“Thank you, everyone, for showing up,” Paulsson said to the gathered students, just before they began unloading saplings from a truck.
The group then worked until each student had planted roughly ten trees.
Pessin shared that NFA is the largest private land owner in Newtown, with roughly 1,300 acres over 90 properties.
“And we are always looking for individuals or groups who want to do conservation efforts on our properties,” said Pessin, as the students began working behind him. Those interested in helping the NFA can e-mail email@example.com.
Following the day’s efforts, Baumgartner said in an e-mail that “the students were amazing.”
“Despite the hard ground, the heat, the poison ivy and ticks, the students were very excited to plant trees to offset paper usage and carbon emissions,” Baumgartner said. “They really felt like they were giving back to nature.”
Baumgartner added extra thanks to NHS student Maili Pieragostini for working as a liaison with Tree-Plenish, Pessin for being the club’s NFA contact, and to Maple Craft Foods, which donated many trees.
“We were blown away by the support of our colleagues and members of the community,” Baumgartner said.
Eliza Hallabeck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.