Oak Street students learn the importance of trees

PLATTSBURGH Fourth-graders at Oak Street Elementary have done their part to help the environment thanks to a partnership between the school, Mountain Lake PBS and the Champlain Valley Family Center Learn and Serve America program. Students in Nancy Steadmans class, aided by Mountain Lake PBS mascot Curious George, planted sugar maple trees on the school grounds May 29 as the culmination of a year-long curriculum that taught the importance of preserving the environment. The students studied the science of the environment, incorporating their artistic abilities by designing shirts in art class with environmental messages on them. The literature aspect was also tied in, with student reading Dr. Seuss The Lorax, a childrens book which depicts what can happen when the environment is taken for granted. Its been a great project, said Steadman. Any time you can relate what students are learning in school to their lives and whats going on in the entire world, its wonderful. Jane Owens, outreach and education director for Mountain Lake PBS, served as the facilitator between the television station, the school and the Learn and Serve program as part of Going Green with Mountain Lake PBS. The ongoing initiative addresses three themes global awareness, learning and innovation skills, and technology skills focusing on what can be done on the local level to teach students and communicate information to the community. Mountain Lake PBS began the initiative based on a partnership with Tree Canada, an organization whose mission to plant trees across Canada was highlighted in the documentary Places of Green, which aired on the local public television station. Mountain Lake PBS thought, on a local level, we should do the same thing to prevent global warming and bring more oxygen to the air, said Owens. One way to do that, said Owens, was to start by planting trees in the community as a means of reducing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen for the atmosphere. Dr. Christopher T. Martine, a biological sciences professor at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, was also involved with the tree planting and said he was impressed by the students interest in preserving the environment. Martine spoke to the students prior to the tree planting regarding the importance of trees to the earths ecosystem. I wanted to stress to them what trees do for us and for the planet, keeping that within the framework of what the biology of trees is how they live, what they do and how that translates into things that are good for us, he said. Martine, who was a guest in the Mountain Lake PBS studio when Places of Green aired, said he found the hands-on approach to student learning to be the most beneficial way for them to fully understand the gravity of the subject. If you plant a tree, especially as a school project, you give these kids a chance to do something they can come back and reflect on for the rest of their live, he said. There are very few other things you can do that can have that same impact. In addition to the project at Oak Street Elementary, the Going Green with Mountain Lake PBS initiative included partnering with more than 100 Stafford Middle School students and teachers for similar environmentally-themed projects. There, students planted trees and created environmental public service announcements, some of which will be aired during a segment of the stations weekly public affairs series, Mountain Lake Journal.

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