A Tree-mendous Idea, Central students plant an orchard

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Central students Alexis Krugger, Carly Kluesner, Lane Orr and Dan McGreal spread mulch around a newly planted tree.

Lane Orr dumps mulch under the watchful eyes of classmates Levi Miller, Maggie Osterhaus, Karleigh Thorson, Shannon Farmer and Sean Wilwert.

By Pam Reinig

Register Editor

Cool temperatures and brisk winds couldn’t dampen the spirits of Central students last week as they planted more than a dozen trees on the playground adjacent to the school. 

Eleven fruit trees, including two apple trees, two plums, three different varieties of cherries and two kinds of pears, were planted by fourth and fifth graders who were supervised by Cassie Panther, an AmeriCorps Service member serving the school in partnership with the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative. Also involved in the project were Central teachers and a handful of others, including Laura Wagner, coordinator of Operation ReLeaf/Trees for Kids, and DNR district foresters Dave Asche and Terry Seago.

A “Trees for Kids” grant written by Panther and awarded by the Iowa Department of Natural Services covered the cost of the fruit trees, which were secured by Steve and Pam Stahr, Elkader Greenhouse. The new grove also includes a maple tree provided by Osborne Conservation Center through their tree-planting program for fourth graders.

 “Osborne normally gives saplings to only the fourth graders, but they had enough this year for both the fourth and fifth graders,” Panther explained.

Panther chose upper elementary students for the project because she thought they’d be the right age to participate. The grant she received required active student participation.

As part of the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative, Panther does a wide range of activities at Central focused on nutrition, gardening, physical activity and local food.

“We had talked about having our own orchard at Central, so I decided to look into and complete the grant,” she said. “I also thought it would add a nice touch and would look beautiful in the spring.”

The new grove is also an extension of Panther’s own love of trees and nature.

She said, “I grew up immersed in nature, and I want the same for the students at Central. By growing up surrounded by nature, I grew to respect it and learned how to be a caretaker of the earth. With growing concerns for the environment, I believe the younger generation will be responsible to protect and love the earth.”

If the giggles of the students were any indication, the planting was a “tree-mendous” success!

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