Tree planting at Ecole Vickers School combines learning and nature

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald (L to R) Avery Cartier and Carys Markell, Grade 4 students at Ecole Vickers School planted a tree during a tree planting event on Friday morning at Ecole Vickers School.

Students at Ecole Vickers School had a chance to plant some trees along Rotary Trail behind their school Friday morning.

The event was part of a Prince Albert Youth Tree Planting Program led by the Prince Albert Model Forest.

“We got funding from the Healthy Communities Initiative for safe and healthy communities and we wanted to get kids involved in putting trees in,” model forest General Manager Peter Friedrichsen said.

“There were trees planted before, but they have been not taken care of or are damaged. We are trying to put in an area that they would be less likely to be damaged, and then also the kids can monitor as part of their in-school work and after school work.”

Friedrichsen added that the program helps build the City’s urban forest. He said Prince Albert is about 42 years behind in pruning and caring for older, larger trees, which are frequently broken or knocked over during large storms. That forces residents to get rid of them, but they aren’t always replaced.

“We are trying to pick up the pace with that, but also build capacity by getting kids involved and saying ‘I planted these trees, I want to care about these trees and care about my community,’” Friedrichsen explained. “They will care about them in the long run and they will be part of an urban forest.”

The plants used included crab apple trees and berries. The planting area is located just behind the ball diamonds between Ecole Vickers and St. Francis School.

“It’s a shelter belt for wind,” Friedrichsen said. “People playing ball or watching a ball game, eventually that will help as people walk by they can eventually pick some of the Crab apples and berries and stuff, so it’s a food security thing. Also, it’s a habitat for birds and everything around here.

“It makes the public spaces in Prince Albert better and also gives the kids a chance for outdoor learning land-based education stuff,” he said.

The education aspect was a key part of the day. This project was co-led between Marcia Klein’s Grade 4 class and Jean-Élie Fortier’s Grade 6 class.. The class has been researching butterflies and pollinators, and student Avery Cartier said that played a part in how the plants were chosen.

“We did a little pollinator garden and we planted some flowers and we planted some vegetables too,” Cartier explained. “Right now we are planting trees and some Saskatoon and cherry bushes.”

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Grade 4 teacher Marcia Klein planted a tree and discussed tree planting during a tree planting event on Friday morning at Ecole Vickers School.

They are also placing spruce, birch and pine trees along with apple trees.

Cartier said the bigger garden would help the students expand their knowledge level in a creative way.

“It’s been super fun doing this with all my friends,” she said. “A lot of other people from the school has been helping us, the Grade 6s have been helping and the Grade 7s and Grade 3s.”

Cartier looked at a map and figured out what plants butterflies need, then determined what plants would work best for the plot. After the trees and bushes grow they will eventually fill gaps with wildflowers.

“Ultimately, what we want to do is keep growing this and create a sitting spot,” Klein said. “Then the kids can come out and they can do painting and they can have berries and if there is enough we can contribute to the food bank.”

The pollinator garden is also part of a bat study the class is doing. They are working with Daniela Cafaggi, a bat researcher from the University of Mexico. The class was paired in an Educator – Explorer Exchange.

“She challenged us to do a presentation on bats. Whatever kinds of bats we wanted, we could research them and make it into a presentation,” Grade 4 student Carys Markell explained.

They learned about bats from Cafaggi, then did their own research to create Google Slide presentations and drawings using an app.

“Avery and I worked on the common vampire bat,” Markell said. “We did a presentation for Daniella, so did everyone else. There was like groups of two or there was some people who were doing it solo.”

After the morning working on planting trees, they did a Zoom meeting with Cafaggi about their pollinator garden.

“We just finished presenting Wednesday and then today we are going to talk to her on Zoom and do a follow up,” Markell said.

The tree planting day was made possible by the Canada Healthy Communities Initiative and the support of our partners at the City of Prince Albert, Paper Excellence and Tolko.
Freidrichsen also thanked the Saskatchewan Association of Watersheds and the Tree for Life program and Saskatoon Select Nurseries for providing the trees and shrubs.

Another tree planting day will take place the afternoon of June 15 at Mair Park, weather permitting.