Staff and students at five Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) are creating a legacy today from which generations decades from now will benefit.
The planting of 75 trees on five CCPS campuses — 15 trees per school — will establish native tree canopies to reduce the environmental effects of heat islands. Theodore G. Davis, John Hanson and Mattawoman middle schools, and North Point and Westlake high schools are in areas known as heat islands — zones that are urbanized, with more concrete and buildings than outlying locations. Conditions found in heat islands lead to higher daytime temperatures and reduced cooling at night. Because of higher air pollution found in heat islands, heat-related health concerns and detrimental environmental impacts can increase.
“What this is making me think about is the whole notion of legacy,” Charles County commissioners’ President Reuben B. Collins II, Esq., said. “For a man, there are three ways to maintain your legacy. One is, of course, to have a child. The second is to write a book. And the third is to plant a tree.”
With assistance from Nanjemoy Creek Environmental Education Center staff and other forestry experts, CCPS staff and students planted Eastern redbuds, American sycamores, white oaks and other trees native to Charles County near each of the five designated schools.
At Westlake, students who are members of Elite Black Men (EBM) took over planting duties, spending about an hour during a recent morning ensuring the trees were planted properly as determined by forestry staff and those with the Student Conservation Association (SCA), a group that provides hands-on environmental conservation programs for young people.
“We became fast learners on how to plant trees. [Experts] showed us a demonstration by planting one tree and now from one tree, we have 15 trees planted in less than an hour,” Westlake senior Nasir Shakur said. “I think my EBM brothers did an amazing job — working as a whole, working as brothers to successfully plant the trees.”
“This enables us to enhance what we are already doing and enhance several of our objectives,” Tim Emhoff, environmental education resource teacher, said. Emhoff, who works at the Nanjemoy Creek Environmental Center, talked about the various outdoor learning programs overseen by center staff, including Gina McCullough, environmental education assistant, who assisted in coordinating tree planting program for CCPS.
The Resilience Authority of Charles County, an office established to respond to the impacts of climate change in Charles County and around the state, was awarded multiple grants totaling $25,000 from the Maryland Urban and Community Forest Committee. The Resilience Authority and the Student Conservation Authority partnered to form the Resilience Authority Youth Corps (RAYC). Through an initiative called RAYC Ahead, SCA staff will provide paid job training and environmental programming for CCPS high school students and young adults who will care for and maintain the newly planted urban tree canopies, according to a Charles County Government news release.
“You are establishing a legacy for your future here today and your legacy overall,” Collins said, addressing members of EBM and others who helped with the tree planting. “That’s something you really have to mull over and appreciate because these trees will be a reflection of you and your legacy.”
CCPS is partnering with the Resilience Authority, the county government, the Maryland Forestry Service, the Student Conservation Association and Maryland’s 5 Million Trees Initiative to continue to plant and maintain urban tree canopies and pocket forests — fast-growing native trees, with layered, mixed plants mimicking layers of a natural forest — at schools and other areas around the county. The Resilience Authority is planning to plant another urban tree canopy this spring at Thomas Stone High School.
Charles County Public Schools provides 27,598 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 37 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.
The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Kathy Kiessling, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Nikial M. Majors, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.
CCPS provides nondiscriminatory equal access to school facilities in accordance with its Use of Facilities rules to designated youth groups (including, but not limited to, the Boy Scouts).