By Natalie Dicou
Salt Lake City, UT (October 7, 2009)- “Bob” and “Luigi” arrived at their new home Wednesday at Salt Lake City’s Meadowlark Elementary School. Both received an enthusiastic greeting from students. “Bob” and “Luigi” are freshly planted Ginkgo biloba trees. They were planted, along with six other trees- each has been named- by West High junior Tanner McIntire with help from Tree Utah, a nonprofit organization dedicated to “urban reforesting.” McIntire, a former Meadowlark student, organized the project to earn his Eagle Scout certification.
“I went to school here when I was little, and we didn’t really have any trees around,” Tanner said. “It was just one of those projects that helps out not only the school but the community.” Because of past problems with plant theft, the school decided to plant eight trees- one for each grade- so students feel ownership of their grade’s tree. “We have had some theft in the past,” said Principal Mike Sadler. “There’s been a little bit of frustration [because] the district has come and planted some things, and other classes have planted some things, and then they’ve been stolen the next day.” It’s been disappointing for Donna McIntire, Tanner’s mother, who has worked on the school’s community council for the past decade. “We’d had people drive in at night and yank [plants],” McIntire said. “Our whole idea was if each grade has its own tree, [students are] going to be protective of that tree. … The hope is that it’s going to grow.”
Naming the trees helps drive the point of ownership home. Third-graders selected “Bob” over Woody, Weewee and Third-Grade Tree, while second-graders went with “Luigi.” “In elementary schools, Bob is a very common tree name,” said Tree Utah’s Kelly Washburn. To earn money for the project, Tanner submitted a grant proposal to Tree Utah. The organization, which granted Tanner $1,500, offers “cost-share grants,” which require recipients to work off the gift through labor. Volunteers earn $22 an hour toward the grant. “The kids are really going to like it, the teachers and parents,” Tanner said. “It gives them a better school, I guess.”
Two representatives from Tree Utah were on hand Wednesday at Meadowlark Elementary, located at 497 N. Morton Drive, for the planting ceremony. Before voting on names and actually placing the tree in its new spot, Tree Utah representatives taught the youngsters about the new trees. Students learned about trees’ benefits, such as shade and cleaning the air. They discussed photosynthesis and about how trees serve as homes for animals.
Tanner’s project happened to fall in October, which is also NeighborWoods month. NeighborWoods is an initiative sponsored by the Alliance for Community Trees and the Home Depot Foundation. “All across the country there are a lot of tree-planting projects going on in October in order to celebrate and highlight the importance of urban forestry,” Washburn said. Says Sadler, “We’ll have a little more shade and a little more greenery. … It’s a nice situation for the school and for the community.”
Salt Lake Tribune- Trees have fresh names and new home at SLC elementary school