If you want to see kids excited about the environment, just visit some third-grade classrooms in Richmond this spring. More than 10,000 students in the metro area are participating in Project Plant It!, a program developed by Dominion Virginia Power to educate children and plant trees.
In January, participating teachers received kits packed with instructional materials including creative lesson plans, posters, a DVD, stickers, certificates and other teaching tools. During the last week of April, tree seedlings for each student will be shipped to the schools in time for kids to take them home on Arbor Day, April 30. The teaching materials and the seedlings are provided by Dominion at no cost to the schools.
“All of the materials in the Project Plant It! teacher kit align with the Virginia Department of Education’s Standards of Learning for third-grade science and other core curriculum subjects such as math, language arts and social studies,” says Laura Marshall, a third-grade teacher at Grange Hall Elementary in Chesterfield County. “The program makes learning about trees fun and interactive for students.”
What if a student doesn’t have a yard to grow seedlings? Third-graders at William Fox Elementary School in Richmond recently demonstrated how tree seedlings can be planted in containers if a student doesn’t outdoor area at home. One-gallon pots, trowels, potting soil and watering cans filled the room, along with the sounds of children working in teams to complete this hands-on science project.
“A tree seedling can thrive for several years indoors before it needs to be transplanted into the ground,” said Caroline Skelly, communications specialist and the Project Plant It! coordinator for Dominion. “The students at Fox Elementary will enjoy watching their tree grow and that’s an important part of Project Plant It!—making a personal contribution to the environment.”
The program’s Web site, www.projectplantit.com, contains a variety of family activities and interactive games about trees. For example, there’s a Forest Adventure Word Scramble that helps kids master tree terminology. In another game, students can watch a tree “grow” on the screen when they answer questions correctly. All lesson plans and instructional tools can be downloaded from the site.
Families can also watch short videos narrated by Dominion foresters about how to plant a tree properly, among other topics. Parents of third-graders will find these videos beneficial when tree seedlings arrive home at the end of April.
Since it first launched in the Richmond region in 2007, Project Plant It! has quadrupled in scope and size. It is now offered throughout Virginia and in other states including Maryland, North Carolina, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. In 2010, more than 30,000 students are enrolled in Project Plant It! According to experts at the Virginia Department of Forestry, this would represent about 75 acres of new forestland if all of the seedlings are planted.