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Peek's Chapel gets grant for more trees

Volunteers with Peek's Chapel Elementary School helped plant more than 30 trees the school received from the Making the Shade Grant from the Georgia Forestry Commission. From left, Beryl Budd with the Georgia Forestry Commission; Daniel S. Bauer, president Arbor Equity Inc.; and school Principal Tiwon Toney spent the cold, windy Friday planting the trees with other volunteers. Staff Photos: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith

Volunteers with Peek's Chapel Elementary School helped plant more than 30 trees the school received from the Making the Shade Grant from the Georgia Forestry Commission. From left, Beryl Budd with the Georgia Forestry Commission; Daniel S. Bauer, president Arbor Equity Inc.; and school Principal Tiwon Toney spent the cold, windy Friday planting the trees with other volunteers. Staff Photos: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith

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Gini Hayes, Dianne Swann and Karen Allen bundled up on Friday morning to plant the trees over the holiday break.

CONYERS -- Peek's Chapel Elementary School will be even more shaded now.

Several volunteers made their way to the school on Friday, braced against the cold wind, to help plant more than 30 trees on the school's playground and campus.

The school recently received the Making the Shade Grant from the Georgia Forestry Commission in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service. Parents and staff and volunteers from the organization, as well as Snapping Shoals EMC and Arbor Equity Inc., helped plant the trees. Other sponsors include Kip Hunter, Peek's Chapel art classes, Rockdale County Public Works and the Extension Service, Pippin's Barbecue and the Upper Ocmulgee Resource Conservation & Development.

The grant totaled nearly $10,000, and the Upper Ocmulgee group made a donation of $500 for the project, which will include hardwood and evergreen trees.

School art teacher Janet Rawls, who is helping organize the project, said some of the trees are planted in the grove of existing older oak and pecan trees on the front of the property in hopes that the area eventually will be used as an outdoor classroom.

"The grant is intended to add shade to the playground and beauty to the campus," Rawls said. "The trees will provide cleaner air and a more healthy environment for our students."

The program aims to reduce surface temperatures of school yards and playground equipment which can cause serious and painful burns to students; reduce ultraviolet radiation, which causes skin damage; reduce ground level ozone by cooling play areas; decrease temperatures on playgrounds which will improve air quality and lessen the risk for children with asthma and other lung-related issues; allow activities in green settings, which can reduce the symptoms of AD/HD and improve test scores; and increase energy conservation by shading air conditioning equipment, windows and buildings.

The grant provides opportunities for science and forestry education by involving the students in the project in the school science lab.

"Each class will adopt a tree and care for it during the school year," Rawls said. "This will involve identifying the tree, as well as measuring growth and watering it."

Each student will decorate watering containers in art class.

"These activities will provide a deeper appreciation and understanding of trees and their place in our environment," Rawls said.

On Jan. 21, which is the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday that also is recognized as a day of service, parents and students have been invited to a work day to spread mulch, water the trees and provide a general cleanup of the school campus. In February, the students will celebrate Arbor Day with a presentation of the Trail of Trees by nationally known environmentalist Tim Womick, sponsored by the Georgia Forestry Commission.

"This grant will provide extended learning opportunities for Peek's Chapel students during the coming year," Rawls said. "This project has pulled together many community partners to create a wonderful experience for our students."