Benjamin Franklin once said, “Tell me and I’ll forget; teach me and I’ll remember; involve me and I’ll learn.”
In Northside ISD, teachers are not only planting seeds of knowledge but are giving students the tools to provide a lasting impact on the environment and the community.
Through a program called C.A.N.O.P.Y (Cultivating and Nurturing Our Planet’s Youth), students at three NISD campuses gathered to plant a “forest of trees” on their campus. The Elementary Science Department hopes to eventually plant tree forests at all NISD elementary campuses and then at all secondary campuses.
On Arbor Day 2023, a special event was held at Driggers Elementary School. Thanks to volunteers from the Texas Conservation Youth Corps. and Driggers students, 142 trees were planted around the campus. Students learned how to properly plant a tree and about the future benefits of the planting on the school and the broader community. The event was possible thanks to a partnership between NISD's Elementary Environmental Education program, the Bexar Branches Alliance (BBA), the American Forest Service, the NISD Maintenance Department, and the NISD Grants and Recognition Department.
“These students will be able to see these trees grow, and in years to come they will be driving down the Grissom Road and be able to tell their family that is a tree that they planted as a student,” said Principal Paul Brusewitz.
Groups of three students were assigned to each tree with an adult volunteer to help them. As they got their gloved hands dirty, they exclaimed how much fun it was to dig in the dirt in anticipation of planting a tree.
Fourth-grade students Avery Solis, Ava Garcia, and Paisley Garcia soon had the hole dug deep enough, placed the tree in the hole with the help of their adult volunteer, and then spread dirt and mulch on top of it. They then took measurements of how tall the tree was, its diameter, and the date that it was planted.
The girls were excited to learn that they would be asked to name their tree. In a childlike diplomatic effort not to hurt anyone’s feelings, the trio decided to name their tree “Priscilla Olivia Garcia.”
The C.A.N.O.P.Y. project uses My City’s Trees data which indicates a need for increased tree canopy to help lessen the heat island effect, and improve social vulnerability, and equity scores. Research indicates trees have a variety of benefits for the environment and people.
Return visits by the elementary environmental education teacher will include data collection of the trees planted to keep an inventory of the trees’ growth and development. This data will be stored via the GLOBE program. NISD and Bexar Branches Alliance have secured funding for three years of watering to ensure an 85% survival rate of the schoolyard forest.
Benefits of trees on students
Trees provide a wealth of environmental, social, and economic benefits to our homes, neighborhoods, schools, and communities. Trees and forests improve air and water quality, sequester carbon dioxide, reduce stormwater and flooding, shade and cool their surroundings, produce oxygen, provide habitat for wildlife, increase property values, and improve human physical and mental health.
Studies continue to illustrate the benefits of connecting children with nature. The presence of trees and vegetation at schools, parks, and neighborhoods supports children's development, learning, and focus, and can reduce the symptoms of Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Green environments can improve school performance.
Research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that young girls who grew up in greener settings showed better concentration, exhibited less impulsive behaviors, had higher self-discipline, and were able to handle peer pressure. Middle-school students with views of nature at school showed reductions in misbehavior, feelings of unfriendliness, and absenteeism. A study of public high school students found consistent improvements in student behavior and performance when there were views of nature. The presence of nature (even just views) helps students recover from mental fatigue and stress.