5th graders plant trees at HHSP

Wednesday, March 19, 2014
CHES 5th graders Hannah Wallace, Aiden Boyce, Caitlyn Helmick, and Sarah Evans stop for a quick picture while planting trees at Henry Horton State Park.

By Jessica Moore

Staff Writer

Thursday and Friday last week were big days at Henry Horton State Park for this year's Chapel Hill Elementary School 5th graders, as well as this year's 9th graders at Forrest High School. Four years ago, when those freshmen were in the 5th grade, they planted sycamore trees along the Duck River. They did this to help keep the shoreline from eroding, since that particular location is prone to flooding. Thursday, March 14, 89 trees were dug up and are being provided free of charge to other state parks throughout Tennessee. One park to take advantage of the program's free trees was Rock Island State Park, which had a crew there to collect the trees the next day.

Friday, March 15, this year's 5th graders were able to spend their day at Henry Horton State Park planting new trees and learning about the Duck River and its environment. This time they planted tulip poplars (Tennessee's State Tree) and Schumard oaks. The 5th graders study the Duck River and learn how to determine whether or not the river is healthy. They collect their own data and turn it into their own information. During this experiment they determined that mud, or sediment, is the leading cause of water pollution. They were asked what they could do to help fight against the erosion that carries mud into the water. One of the most common answers was to plant trees and grasses and even to move picnic tables. Many tables have been moved to keep people from walking off the trails, and trees and grasses have been planted to help hold the soil in place.

"The educational model is to empower the kids and give them the sense that this is their park by giving them hands-on education and showing them the value of the park and water quality. It also shows them they can do something to help," said Tennessee Environmental Council Director John McFadden.

The students enjoyed the hands-on learning. Here's what a few of the CHES 5th graders had to say.

"I liked everyone working together to help plant more trees, so we can help the environment," said Ella Rose Strasser.

"My favorite part was planting together and digging together. Also, the idea of it is really good to help the environment. If we keep planting trees, it will help," said Wayne Clausel.

"I liked how we got to plant trees and how they would go to another park, and how we can go to another state park and possibly see trees that we planted," said Abigail Pielak.

All of this is done as part of the Duck River Watershed Education program with the 5th grade classes at Chapel Hill Elementary School and the Environmental Council. The Friends of Henry Horton State Park have been able to provide this educational program each year since the fall of 2009. In 2012, the Friends of Henry Horton State Park were awarded the Governor's Stewardship Award for Environmental Education by Gov. Bill Haslam for this very same program.

This year's project wouldn't be possible without the joint efforts and collaboration of the 5th grade teachers at Chapel Hill Elementary -- Carrie Thrasher, Debbie Hileman, Tara Stacey, Jennifer Daughrity, Cindy Gabard, and Teacher's Aide Laura Burke -- and McFadden; HHSP Manager Randy Whitworth; and the Friends of Henry Horton State Park: President Teresa Dugger, Secretary Stacey Cothran, and Treasurer Leanne Higdon.