October 17, 2003

Arbor Day In Richmond-A Huge Success

By Fred H. Arm

On Wednesday, October 15th, the United States celebrates Arbor Day--a homage to the trees of the world, which are sometimes referred to as the lungs of the Earth. In Richmond, Lana Husser, a petite French teacher at Richmond High School is the dynamic driving force behind the local tree planting observance extraordinaire.

Dozens of eager students from Richmond High, the Richmond Parks department, the Urban Forest Advisory Committee, volunteers, and numerous dignitaries turned out with picks, shovels, and bubbly attitudes to receive numerous trees provided by the City of Richmond Parks Department. The trees were planted in specially pre-dug holes by the students themselves and fitted with watering pipes and support poles. The football team, not to be undone, also planted a number of trees around their playing field.

Ms. Husser has been voluntarily teaching environmental courses to hundreds of students over the years. She personally arranged for the students to clean up a previous waste site behind the campus and had the kids dig a creek bed that eventually was lined with concrete and rocks. The creek water is recycled by a pumping system and flows naturally down the incline over the rocks much as a natural creek bed. The motto at the “Science Academy” is “the creek is the crux of the conversation”. In this de facto academy, whose slogan is “sustainability” and “personal responsibility,” the two creeks flow throughout the curriculum, whether it is biology, chemistry, ecology, history, or social activism—just as they do through the community.

In the winter, the full and rushing water after several days of rain provides a ready lesson in nature’s power and its resiliency. The creek bed holds up particularly well. Despite the winter rains, the bank remains stable, unscarred by mudslides, a solid mantle of vegetation of young trees interspersed with tufts of grass and scrub. The creek is Husser’s outdoor laboratory and it teaches the kids lessons not usually found in books or the classroom.
The students learn that trees are a vital element in the eco-system. Some fascinating Tree Facts are:
· A tree can grow to manufacture five pounds of pure oxygen per day, consume carbon dioxide to fight the “greenhouse effect” that threatens our survival, and provide the cooling equivalent of ten room-size air conditioning units.
· A tree, over a 50-year period, will generate $31,250 worth of oxygen, provide $62,000 worth of air pollution control, and recycle $37,500 worth of water.
· Trees conserve energy; reduce soil erosion, clean the air we breathe, and help protect rivers and streams. If trees are to provide all these benefits, we need to care for the trees we have, and to plant more.

It was particularly remarkable to see the joys of discovery and exploration on the faces of the students in such a low-income area known typically for drive-by shootings and hostile attitudes. Ms Husser has achieved through the shared exploration and studies of nature what social workers do not even begin to accomplish. Our hats are off to you, Lana. Good job—Well done!

Posted by fredarm at October 17, 2003 03:36 PM
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