Renee Reining, Oakville Elementary School, St. Mary’s County, 301-373-4365, firstname.lastname@example.org
In the spring of 2005, Oakville Elementary School planted 12 native trees on school grounds. Students from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade participated in this project. Oakville Elementary School began a reforestation project during the Spring of 2004 and is committed to an ongoing effort to help maintain and restore our local environment and the Chesapeake Bay.
Best Practice 1: Meet a recognized need in the community
An environmental community need was met by this project. The older students researched the environmental needs of the Chesapeake Bay and our local environment. It was determined that our local area and the Bay would greatly benefit from a reforestation project. According to our research, 300 million pounds of nitrogen enter the Bay from farm runoff, neighborhoods, power plants, and sewage treatment plants. Nitrogen is harmful for the Bay and causes phytoplankton to overproduce. As the phytoplankton dies, it decomposes and depletes oxygen from the Bay water. Trees assist in water filtration, erosion prevention, and will help decrease farm run-off. By planting trees we can help prevent the Bay from becoming more polluted. Less than 60% of the Bay’s forests remain, so we feel that our reforestation project will help meet an environmental need in our local area.
Best Practice 2: Achieve curricular objectives through service-learning
Our reforestation project supports the Maryland state curriculum because we are required to study life science and ecology (the branch of biology that deals with the relationships of living things to their environment and to each other). The planting of trees helps many animals because trees produce food and oxygen. The trees will also help prevent erosion. When measuring the distance from our trees and our stream we met several of our measurement curriculum benchmarks. The students also supported the Maryland state curriculum for writing to persuade and writing to inform. Mrs. Reining’s fifth grade students wrote an entire grant in order to receive funding for our reforestation project. The students worked together as a team and in groups to complete a lengthy Chesapeake Bay Trust application.
Best Practice 3: Reflect throughout the service-learning experience
The students reflected and reacted to the project throughout the entire process. During the grant writing phase, each group shared their findings and reflected on how to improve the grant. After the actual tree planting, students were asked to assess how they felt the project went. Was it planned out appropriately? Were there any unforeseen problems?
Best Practice 4: Develop student responsibility
The students were in complete control of the entire project. They assumed responsibility for the writing of the grant and worked together to produce a well-written document that secured the funding for the project. This process included determination of a project budget.
Best Practice 5: Establish community partnerships
The community partners for this project included Wentworth’s Nursery and parents of students at Oakville Elementary School. Wentworth’s Nursery supplied the trees at a discount price and delivered them on the day of the project. Parents and students performed the actual tree planting.
Best Practice 6: Plan ahead for service-learning
The students prepared for the project by successfully writing the grant to secure the project funding. The students also organized volunteers and all necessary project tools for the actual planting.
Best Practice 7: Equip students with knowledge and skills needed for service
The students gained a wealth of knowledge about the environment and the practical writing skills they developed will serve them well throughout their lifetime. They also gained “hands-on” experience by actually planting the trees. The students were very engaged in the leadership and organization throughout the various stages of this project. They demonstrated and continue to demonstrate an eagerness to restore the Bay and the environment. They are empowered by the idea that they can truly make a difference.