Last year, we learned just how powerful kids can be when you give them the tools to effect change. Two groups of young, passionate tree advocates took on our Tree For Me initiative and inspired their communities to take action and work towards a greener Toronto.
In Spring 2016, we met an enthusiastic Teacher Candidate named Luxshan Ambi. He attended one of our earliest Tree For Me events and knew it would be a perfect fit for students of Toronto's EcoSchools program. EcoSchools is a school greening initiative focused on supporting students and staff in learning about, caring for, and protecting the environment not only through curriculum, but also through how schools are operated, designed, and how the school grounds are used.
Luxshan applied for a Tree For Me Facilitated Grant on behalf of the grades 4\5 students of Glen Ravine Junior Public School, and the class was awarded $500 to host an event. He, supervising teacher, Urmilla Sawh, and Principal Demitra Zervas worked hard to convince the Toronto District School Board that Tree For Me would be a valuable learning tool for the students. Happily, their hard work paid off! In Spring 2017, Glen Ravine JPS, a model school, was the first EcoSchool in Toronto to host a Tree For Me event.
The students set a goal to distribute 50 free trees to neighbours and friends throughout their community. They gave up recesses and lunch breaks to work on their project, and canvassed throughout their neighbourhood. Many of the students live in nearby high-rise buildings, where they themselves could not plant trees, so they really worked hard to appeal to their neighbours to get involved. In the end, the students found homes for 104 trees - double their original goal! This amazing accomplishment was a significant contribution to greening their community and growing Toronto's tree canopy. It even caught the attention of Mayor John Tory, who attended their Tree For Me event. Students were awarded certificates, officially recognizing them as "Tree Ambassadors" for the City of Toronto. They were overjoyed!
This past November, the students of neighbouring school Hunter's Glen Junior Public School followed suit, with Teacher Candidate Melanie Madray leading a Tree For Me event with help from Luxshan. In fact, with support from Principal Aldo Petrucci, Vice Principal, Angela MacMillan-Suzuki and EcoSchools Lead, Maria Harvey, the entire school rallied together, and made Tree For Me a school-wide learning initiative, with students of all grade levels taking part in building awareness around the importance of tree planting.
The students of Uloma Onyido's Grade 4 class led the official Tree For Me Event after their school received a $2000 grant from Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation. They set an ambitious goal to distribute 75 trees to residents in their local community. Through their hard work and dedication, they far surpassed their goal, distributing 160 free trees to community members! The students worked hard to learn about the different native species and proper care techniques, and were fantastic leaders in the tree care workshops, making sure participants were well-equipped with the knowledge they needed to successfully plant their trees.
We’re so grateful for the hard work and dedication of all the students and staff who made Tree For Me a success in Toronto schools, and and are excited to continue to develop our partnership with Toronto’s EcoSchools program!
We would also like to add a big congratulations to Luxshan! His role in championing Tree For Me and mobilizing Toronto EcoSchool’s was recently recognized by The Laboratory School at the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study which presented him with the Dr. David Suzuki Fellowship Award in recognition of excellence in pre-service Environmental Education of elementary school children. Way to go, Luxshan!
We love to see communities across Toronto getting excited about green spaces. Share your stories with us on Twitter and Instagram @TOParksandTrees!