Trees have very, very important jobs on our school sites. Diminishing dust in the air decreases asthmatic conditions, providing shade decreases unwanted UV light from reaching children and teachers, and shade keeps play equipment from reaching dangerously hot temperatures. Tree roots help control erosion and soil compaction; and colors, shapes, textures, foods, soil nutrients and plant biology are discovered in leaves and flowers.
Unfortunately, building expansion programs were not honoring the need to replace trees or preserve school trees, and parents and teachers in Athens-Clarke County were asking for help. The CTC responded.
The School Yard Shade Program began as a pilot study created by the GA Forestry Commission’s (GFC) Sustainable Community Forest Program to demonstrate how trees can ameliorate the negative effects of ultraviolet light and high temperatures on a school landscape. The first planting was at Gaines Elementary School, and shade trees now encircle the play equipment, shade buildings and teachers’ benches, and increased the diversity of plant species throughout the school site.
To begin, a professional designer created a landscape plan, with input from the school community, to address how canopy and understory trees could shade outdoor areas and buildings. Large trees were commercially installed and smaller trees were planted with volunteers at the Martin Luther King Day of Service, with school children at the CTC Arbor Day event, and with UGA service learning students. The Clarke County School District provides ongoing landscape management and the trees are thriving.
Data collected from the pilot project showed it was a success, and future grants were offered by the GFC as the Making the Shade Program. The CTC was rewarded additional opportunities to improve the tree canopy at Coile Middle School (200 ) and JJ Harris Elementary School (2010). We are proud of the progress that has been achieved, and continue to offer support in improving our school forests