UPDATE: Plantings originally were scheduled to take place on Friday, April 26, but were postponed due to inclement weather. At a date to be determined in the near future, the groups plan to volunteer their time to plant trees around the Village of Hempstead. - Ed.
It’s all there.
The math: 300 trees; 490 bushes and plants; 10 school buildings; and three unions.
The science: choosing trees and bushes native to Long Island.
The geography: school grounds and local Hempstead streetscapes, where the new trees will be planted.
While small in size now, the trees, shrubs and plants will rise as winterberry, silky dogwood, grey dogwood, bottom bush and beach plum. There are also 100 red oak trees with the promise of blazing red leaves to come; 100 white spruce trees, and 100 Norway spruce that will go into the dirt today on national Arbor Day. They will mature alongside the young students helping to plant them.
Kicking it all off: union action and community outreach. NYSUT provided a $1,000 Community Outreach grant to the Hempstead Classroom Teachers Association, the Hempstead Teaching Assistants Association, and the Hempstead School Civil Service Association to purchase the trees. That was paired with a $5,000 grant from the Village of Hempstead Community Development Agency — all with the goal to encourage community service by students and community members, and to create a sustainable service project.
“Giving back to communities across New York is at the heart of the union movement and NYSUT’s mission,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “Not only do educators and school professionals help our children grow, this project is a reminder for all Hempstead residents about how school employees quite literally help their communities blossom.”
Surrounded by little green tubs of promising stick-like tree trunks in mounds of mulch, Hempstead Classroom Teachers Association President Nicole Brown said: “This project is a reminder for our educators about how far our impact can reach. We are excited to give our community something to cherish for years to come.”
Along the way, students will be educated about urban forestry, conservation, and preserving plantings native to Long Island. The project will enable the town to maintain their national designation as a “Tree City USA” from the Arbor Day Foundation, which involves meeting core standard activities.
NYSUT staff brought the trees from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Saratoga Tree Nursery down to Long Island for today’s event. The DEC, the Village of Hempstead, the Outdoors and Environmental Education Program of Nassau BOCES, and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Nassau County also teamed up on the project, as have master gardeners.
“We hope this project instills a sense of community pride in not only our students, but everyone in Hempstead and beyond,” said Anita Reynolds, Hempstead Teaching Assistants Association president.
“Making Hempstead a little greener is a great opportunity for us as school professionals to give back,” Hempstead Schools Civil Service Association President Pamela Parsley said. “We’re excited to leave our mark throughout the village to remind people how our schools give back every day.”
Lesson plans for educators around the theme of planting can be found at Project Learning Tree and at www.arborday.org, which also launched a Tree for Life initiative.
The American Federation of Teachers also has a free Share My Lesson site rich with resources on many topics – including those about trees. For middle school teachers, lessons at www.sharemylesson.com include sustainable forestry. Meanwhile, elementary teachers can check out lessons on identifying trees.
Paul Pecorale, NYSUT second vice president and a native Long Islander who attended the Hempstead Arbor Day kickoff, noted the work educators have done to maintain the natural beauty of the island’s communities.
“They are sending the right message to our students,” he said, “about sustainability and community pride.”