210121ind ecoclub

Narragansett High School students Julia Highcove, left, Leah Hart, Aivan Durfee, Shelby Lefoley, Danielle Hart and Anna Hart will be among the school’s Eco Club members who will plant 100 trees throughout the community on May 1 to offset the school’s paper usage as part of the Tree-Plenish national program.

NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — A group of Narragansett High School students will exercise their green thumbs this spring in order to help the environment.

The dozen members of the school’s Eco-Club, along with outside volunteers, plan to plant 100 trees in town on May 1.

It’s part of a nationwide program started by Tree-Plenish, a nonprofit organization that has partnered with more than 85 schools to help build sustainable communities through youth engagement.

The Eco-Club chose the project earlier this year as a way to offset the school’s paper usage, club president Julia Highcove, a senior, said.

“We have 50 trees ordered and our goal is 100,” Highcove said. “That’s just residential. Whoever wanted them specifically for their yard can have ornamental trees. The town also plans to get some too. Our goal is 100 altogether because that’s equal to how much paper our school used last year. Our goal is to get back to net-zero use.”

The club has worked with its adviser, NHS science teacher Kathleen Couchon, throughout the process on efforts such as recruiting planting volunteers and setting up a web page where interested folks can order their tree and learn more about the program and the May 1 event.

“Tree-Plenish was started as a senior project for students in southeastern Massachusetts,” Couchon said. “They’re all in college now and it’s run by the college students.”

The Narragansett students are also starting to get the word out about the project, which depends on the community to help. The more homeowners that request trees, the faster the students are able to reach their goals.

“This is the third year the club is doing something. Last year, we gave reusable water bottles to everyone in the school,” Highcove said. “This is our first year planting trees.”

Indeed,  Highcove’s only other tree-planting experience took place years ago as a Girl Scout in front of the town’s elementary school, she said.

“This is the first time organizing a whole tree-planting event,” she said.

Residents who want to take part can choose the type of tree they want, and volunteers will come to their yard on May 1 to plant them. Trees are $5 and will come as saplings of between 18 and 24 inches.

The Eco-Club has already chosen the two types of trees it will plant – the eastern red bud and red maple, Highcove said.

“One’s red in the fall and one’s pink in the spring, and the rest of the time they’re green,” she said.

The eastern red bud typically grows to 20 to 30 feet and generally has a short, often twisted trunk and spreading branches. The flowers are light to dark magenta pink, appearing in clusters from spring to early summer. Its leaves are heart-shaped.

Red maple is an abundant and widely-adaptable large tree common to the woods of eastern North America. A red tinge can be found in its flowers, twigs and seeds, but it’s most notable for the scarlet of its leaves in fall.

The tree request process continues until about one month before the event is to take place to allow time for the trees to be ordered and delivered.

Students also are reaching out to the community to recruit volunteers to help plant trees on the day of the event. Because of COVID-19, Tree-Plenish has created specific guidelines to protect residents and volunteers during the May event.

Volunteers need not have planting experience to take part in the community project.

“For people picking up a tree, we’ll give them the tree and an info-graphic about how to plant them,” Highcove said.

The trees will come from a wholesale nursery in Massachusetts.

If homeowners are unable to request a tree or volunteer their time, they can also make a monetary contribution on the Tree-Plenish website, at tree-plenish.org/narragansett.

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