Students find roots in community

Branching out from the classroom

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— In spirit of Earth Day, blue spruce, aspen and cottonwood trees soon will line every house along Amethyst Drive because of a new tree grant from the Colorado Tree Coalition and the U.S. Forest Service.

This year, a gift of $1,000 from the Colorado Tree Coalition, and $700 from the Forest Service was given to help fund the tree planting program.

"It's a fairly new street and we want to make it look like old town," Matt Tredway, sixth grade science teacher, said of Amethyst Drive.

For seven years, the Steamboat Springs Middle School has sold these three types of trees as part of a science volunteer initiative to return something to the environment and allow students to understand the importance of trees.

With help from Tredway and other middle school teachers, about 400 trees are sold a year to individuals in Routt County with proceeds benefiting the city, the people and nonprofit organizations.

Advocates Against Battery and Abuse has benefited from cash donations from the tree sale.

"It's a great esteem builder, an extension of activities. It's good for kids that don't do mainstream sports," Tredway said of the rock climbing wall that was built with money from the tree sale. "It's something the kids go for a way to push themselves."

These win-win monetary situations hopefully will help fund the ice climbing wall at Howelsen Hill in the near future, Tredway said of the $40,000 the school has earned in the last seven years.

A truck load of non-cotton growing cottonwoods and blue spruce were delivered to the middle school Friday morning and Aspens will arrive on the doorstep May 2.

Tredway said most trees have been pre-sold, but many are left over for those who want them. Within the last seven years, middle school students have sold 3,500 trees through the program.

Kirk Wolff, the forest hydrologist for the U.S. Forest Service, said, without getting too technical, that replenishing trees is imprortant because trees provide shade, decrease soil erosion, homes for wildlife and offer aesthetics to the community.

"Those roots, they actually tie soil particles together. If you're planting them along the river, those root masses hold the soil in place," Wolff said. "And people are nuts about trees."

Wolff said that although trees don't act as a cooling agent for water, they do not heat up the water when a tree's canopy hangs over a river.

Buy the tree Students are selling trees at the following prices: Blue Spruce 4 to 5 feet$90 5 to 6 feet$115 7 to 8 feet$145 8 to 10 feet$200 Cottonwood 2 inch diameter$50 Aspen 1.5 inch diameter clump$45 2 inch diameter clump$60

Trees also are integral for the food chain cycle. When trees lose their leaves, they fall into the river, decomposing to provide food for aquatic life, which provides food for other fish.

"We want to have trees for the long term. Trees grow generally slow and you want to have something in 20 to 30 years. You need to start sometime soon," Wolff said.

While the middle school garage sale of trees will hold hundreds of blue spruce, cottonwoods and aspens from four to 10 feet high, many of the students who volunteer their time and energy cannot plant these heavily-rooted monsters.

However, for those who are interested, the trees bought with grant money will only be in five-gallon buckets, light enough for a sixth grader to pick up and plant.

"It's a nice change of pace from classroom work when they get to get outside," Tredway said. "We learn a bit about business and marketing and how to deal with people."

And because the students have to measure the trees when they're unloaded from the truck, sixth grade math skills will be reinforced, said Nancy Hummel, sixth grade geography and reading teacher.

Cottonwood trees line the driveway to the middle school and Strawberry Park Elementary campuses, along the Yampa River and throughout the trails in Steamboat.

Recently, Hummel took students out to the fields and dispersed wildflower seeds over the ground.

When Hummel knew that Tredway had started the tree sale and planting program, she decided to merge both ideas as a way to beautify Steamboat with the help of the children.

"Our goal is to beautify the town and get more kids involved so they have ownership in the community," Hummel said.

Her program, Kidscape, allows students to become involved in the community through landscaping highly visible areas.

With cooperation from the City Council, students planted trees along the medians, spread wildflowers along the banks of the Yampa River and established the butterfly garden in the Botanic Park.

Proceeds from selling packets of wildflower seeds back to the community goes to buying

more seeds.

"This is a valuable, educational experience and is definitely kid powered," Hummel said.

Through volunteering, students can receive community service hours and the top three sellers receive cash prizes, Hummel said.

"The bottom line is they see they're making a difference. If a plant or a tree is cut down, they see, yeah, it does make a difference. It makes a big difference," Tredway said.

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