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Third graders complete class project, plant trees at Bowman’s Beach

By Staff | May 30, 2011

With help from environmental educator Richard Finkel, right, Austin Desidero-Taub plants the first tree along the Fitness Trail at Bowman's Beach last Thursday morning.

There are plenty of trees throughout the Bowman’s Beach recreational facility that surrounds the parking lot, fitness trail and walkways leading to the shoreline. And thanks to the third grade classes from The Sanibel School, there are 50 new trees that will call the site home.

Last Thursday morning, students from Renae Atkinson and Annie Franke’s classes took a field trip to Bowman’s Beach, putting the final touch on a Tree Study Project conducted throughout the 2010-11 school year.

“I had done projects with third graders in the past, but they were usually just for Arbor Day,” said Richard Finkel, an environmental educator. “But with this project, students received their trees at the start of the school year, took care of them and, today, are planting them here.”

According to Finkel, he donated 50 trees — including Jamaican dogwoods, slash pines, mastics, mahogany, paradise trees and wild tamarinds — to the third graders. All of the trees came from the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation’s Native Plant Nursery.

Since last fall, each student cared for his or her own tree. They kept a journal recording the growth of their trees, charted their progress with fellow students’ trees and wrote poetry about their seedlings.

Richard Finkel explains the importance of trees to Sanibel third grade students.

“Not only did they do research about interesting facts and folklore about trees, but the project gave students a real sense of ownership,” said Finkel. “Not only did the project get them excited about math and science and writing, but I think it helped them become more involved with something that will benefit their community.

On May 26, Atkinson and Franke led their students, along with several parent volunteers, to the Fitness trail at Bowman’s Beach, where Finkel had arranged for each of the trees to be planted. One-by-one, youngsters placed their trees — tagged with individual identification tags — into shallow holes dug into the earth. Once planted, students added a layer of mulch to the trees. Later in the day, crews from the City of Sanibel’s Public Works Department were scheduled to water the seedlings every three days.

Austin Desidero-Taub, who planted the first tree of the day, said that he was looking forward to returning to the site in future years and showing off “his” tree.

“I hope it grows up to be very tall and strong,” he added.

Assisting her students with planting their trees, Atkinson remarked how much her class enjoyed the project all year long.

Ashley Thibaut plants her tree.

“Any time you can take the kids out of the classroom and give them a hands-on experience like this is great,” said Atkinson. “It’s another way that these kids are giving back to their community.

Third-grader Knox Deal watches Finkel add dirt around the seedling.

The group watches Richard Finkel, right, as he demonstrates how to dig a hole for the trees.