On a recent morning at C.E. Curtis Elementary School, about 120 third graders got a taste of what it’s like to be a tree.
They crouched, curled into balls as seeds, before shooting up a sprout, gradually growing taller, extending branches and sprouting leaves. Held firmly in place by their roots, they laughed and swayed in a breeze before falling to the ground as they met the fate of trees grown on a tree farm.
Lisa Deaton, the Virginia Department of Forestry’s forestry education specialist, gave the presentation, growing and swaying with the students as she walked them through the tree life cycle.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Deaton, who spends most of her time working with teachers who are using the program. The children get excited about the information, she said, and are eager to answer questions and participate in games.
The third graders are among the roughly 10,000 students in the region who are participating in Project Plant It! this year, said Sara Hunt, who works with the program. Project Plant It! is an environmental education program developed by Dominion to educate children, plant trees and improve the environment, according to information on the program. As part of the program, the children receive tree seedlings to plant at home on Arbor Day.
The program is in its fourth year, she said, and more than 30,000 students in six states will participate this school year. Chesterfield County Public Schools have participated every year, she said.
As well as acting out the tree life cycle, the students fielded questions about which everyday objects contain materials from trees, gathered the things – water, sunlight and food – a tree needs to live and danced. Deaton ended her presentation with a question.
“Are we ready to plant these trees?” she asked.
The students shouted their response: “Yes!”