By Canopy Team on December 18, 2021
Of all the tree plantings Canopy led this fall, staff and volunteers will tell you that the Saturday morning we worked at All Five preschool in Belle Haven was a highlight.
For starters, we had a great crowd. Volunteers of all ages came out to help: Woodside Atherton Garden Club members, cheerleaders and other students from Fremont High and Eastside College Preparatory, Teen Urban Foresters, Kiwanis Club of Palo Alto, and All Five school families and neighbors joined Canopy staff and planting leaders.
Together, they planted a total of 17 trees inside the school grounds and on the street alongside the school.
But there was an extra ingredient that made this planting special. These new trees will nurture All Five’s young students in countless ways that will last a lifetime.
Just ask the preschool’s founder and executive director, Carol Thomsen.
“One of the most important things that kids can learn is respect for the environment,” Carol says, “and planting trees and other growing things is integral to that learning. These kids are the ones who will be facing the most drastic effects of climate change, and trees are some of the most important living things that can help us combat climate change.”
In teaching young children about trees, you’re also teaching them above love, Carol says.
“Children love trees. They find solace in trees, they love climbing them, they love watching how they change over the course of a year, they love the shade that they provide, they love the heaviness and the textures of the trunk of a tree, they love how they smell at different times of the year,” she says.
Carol also knows about disparity in its many forms on the Midpeninsula. She commutes to work from western Menlo Park. Crossing the bridge to the Belle Haven neighborhood, the contrasts are stark. She leaves a wealthy neighborhood where the schools have ample tree canopies and travels to a community where they don’t.
“When people come to this school, in a low-income community that doesn’t have enough trees, and yet they see all these trees here, they immediately know this is a place for children,” Carol says. “These children will grow up respecting and knowing how to care for trees.”
A few weeks before the planting at All Five, Vanessa Wyns, Canopy’s education director, and education volunteer Stephanie Enos presented the “Planting Trees is Fun” interactive lesson to the All Five preschoolers.
After learning about tree parts and soil, the kids broke up into groups and planted four young trees with the help of Canopy staff and planting leaders. The little ones especially loved exploring soil samples, looking for critters like worms and ants; jumping in the planting holes, to compact the soil beneath the root ball to prevent settling; and working the root ball with their fingers to loosen the tree roots before planting.
“We always try to get families engaged when we hold tree plantings at schools, but All Five has been exceptional,” says Arlene Nuñez García, Canopy’s community forestry coordinator. “There’s so much enthusiasm there, the school staff is so supportive of engaging their families in what we’re doing. It’s in their mission statement to create environmental stewards of their students.”
Arlene loved seeing all the volunteers who came to the November tree planting at All Five. “We had a lot of young people, even a cheerleading group,” she says. “It was really nice to see the mix of young and old and girls and boys, because forestry is still mostly an interest of white males.”
“I never had experiences like this growing up,” adds Arlene, who grew up in Orange County, “so it’s really nice to see youth getting involved.”