Tuesday, January 22, 2013

New year: more trees for OneTree project

Chris Pastro (left) and Celia Jackson plant birch seeds.

OneTree volunteers held a planting party over the past weekend to prepare another round of birch seedlings for classroom studies. OneTree folks sorted and planted birch seeds in the Arctic Health Research Greenhouse.

By Sunday afternoon, 500 planters were ready to do a few weeks of growing in the greenhouse before they are delivered to 18 K-12 classrooms in the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District.

The project is a continuation of OneTree’s work over the past four years. The outreach project of SNRAS’s forestry department has reached thousands of students with its focus on science and art involving birch trees. School district art teachers are very involved in the project, developing and teaching curriculum centered on the OneTree concept.

When the seedlings arrive, students will observe them for the remainder of the school year. The seedlings will be forced into dormancy over the summer and return to classrooms in the fall. Schools involved include Randy Smith Middle School, Anne Wien Elementary School, Salcha Elementary School, Badger Elementary School, Watershed Charter School, Hutchison High School, Tanana Middle School and Barnette Magnet School.

Students record the growth of each tree and compare soil and light conditions. They take scientific notations related to everything from tree growth to weather data. Students are focused on the same protocols whether kindergarten or 12th grade, with activities modified for each grade.

Eventually the trees will be planted in the community on Arbor Day 2014.

Janice Dawe, coordinator of OneTree, said this will be a prototype year for the project. Because funding came through after the school year began, Dawe decided to stick with teachers who were already involved in the program. “Three or four new teachers found their way to us,” she said. “In the future we will open it up much more.”

Many of the teachers are enrolled in a continuing education class called OneTree: From Seed to Tree that is running from January to May. The NRM 595 course involves 11 classroom teachers who are learning about science and art education techniques related to birch tree studies.

Randy Smith Middle School teacher Chris Pastro has been faithful to OneTree since its inception. “My students learn new observation skills and we integrate art,” she said. Her students have been researching three types of soil to see the differences in germination and growth rates.

From October to December Randy Smith Middle School teacher Mike Geil’s students experimented with temperature and water factors for scientific comparisons. They grew seedlings in a 68 to 70 degree room and a 75 to 76 degree room, and they experimented with water treatments in both groups. The seedlings are now at the Arctic Health Research Greenhouse to get a boost on growing before they travel to Carri Forbes’ life sciences classes at Tanana Middle School. Later they will be put into dormancy and then come back out on Earth Day for further monitoring of leafout and budburst.

“It’s all learning by doing,” Dawe said. “A lot of questions have been generated.”
Bryant Wright (left) and Eric Schacht helped with the seed planting.

Jan Dawe looks at birch seedling in the Arctic Health Research Greenhouse.

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