Students plant trees for better air quality at Jennie Reed Elementary

The students worked well together to plant 70 mature trees around the Jennie Reed campus. Photo by Ranae Desouza

Friends and families of Tacoma woke up bright and early and put on their gardening gloves Oct. 14 to plant 70 mature trees all around the property at Jennie Reed Elementary.

Tacoma School District, the City of Tacoma and local community groups have teamed up to accomplish a community building project that will better improve the air quality and aesthetic in the Jennie Reed neighborhood.

Jennie Reed Elementary is located right off I-5 and the exhaust from the cars on the freeway has drawn concern from the community. Fourth-grader Koolax McAlpin said, “Since we’re next to the freeway, all the exhaust is bad for us so we have to plant trees to make the air better.” Fourth-grader and Jaguar Ambassador Jayden McMenamin added, “Now recess won’t smell like car exhaust.” On top of the improvement on air quality in the area, the project allowed for the community to collaborate on a project together.

“The community has a huge need for this with only one park that is privately owned in the neighborhood,” said Jennie Reed teacher Ranae DeSouza. “We have language disparities, but even though not everyone speaks English, everyone could still participate.” This project gave the kids in the Jennie Reed neighborhood an opportunity to give back despite their age.

“We did a great job,” said fourth-grader and Vice President at Reed Chrystalyn Orn.

The trees gave the school, its students and faculty something to be proud of. McMenamin stated, “There wasn’t anything anyone was unincluded from. No one said you couldn’t do anything just because you were a kid.” McMenamin himself said he helped do a little bit of everything when planting the trees.

Orn said her favorite thing to do was putting the trees in the holes dug for them. The kids were surprised by the sizes of the trees. They thought they were going to be planting saplings, but when the workday came they found themselves planting trees that were nearly the same size as themselves.

“The hardest part was planting the taller trees because their roots had more time to grow and they were wrapped in a circle at the bottom and we had to unwind them,” McMenamin said.  McAlpin added that the trees were quite pointy, and that made it hard to plant.

This project has also opened doors for Jennie Reed Elementary. The school has been selected to become a green school. This means they will now start separating their waste and recycling at lunch and monitoring it. The trees were just the first step to Jennie Reed becoming greener and better, and students cannot wait to see what project they have next.

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