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Tree Growing Educational Program is Launched with Payne Elementary School


We recently had a great time with the young and eager students of Payne Elementary School in Washington DC.  With the help of school staff we developed a lesson plan discussing specific benefits of trees, while also touching on a number of broader issues listed below.  Over the course of one week all of the school’s 330+ students school received a tree growing kit to start in class and continue growing at home.  We hope that the process of growing a tree from seed will reinforce for the students what they learned in class.

The life lessons included:

  • Everything starts small, even big things
  • Small things can be delicate, so it’s important to take care of them
  • Everything takes time to grow and gain strength, so you need to be patient
  • The Earth’s store of air, i.e. the atmosphere, is relatively paper-thin
  • A lot of the oxygen in the atmosphere comes from trees
  • Therefore, by planting hundreds of trees this week Payne students are doing a good thing for the planet
  • “Trees planted anywhere help everyone everywhere!”

Special thanks go out to the teachers and staff of Payne Elementary School who helped create a benefits-of-trees curriculum: Miss Henson, Science Teacher; Danielle Ciaurro, Community Liaison AmeriCorps VISTA; and Amy Thomas, Community Liaison AmeriCorps VISTA.  Thanks also to the many people and organizations (see below) who donated funds to purchase more than 300 tree growing kits for every student in the school.


The first step was to show the students what a little tree seedling looks like.  We showed them slow growing Sourwood seedling, which even after six weeks showed just a tiny bit of green:

The students were all struck by how small and delicate the seedling was, compared to the large neighborhood trees they can see from the classroom window.

The Sourwood species is native to the Mid-Atlantic region and sports beautiful green and red colors.  Because they glow slowly, the seedlings can stay in-doors in the little cups we gave the students for many months before they require re-potting.

The next step was to distribute the starter kits to each student. Each student was asked to write their name and the date on their cup.

Some students also chose name their future trees.

Then each student was asked to open their tree growing kits and carefully remove the contents: compressed organic “soil” pellet and tree seeds contained within a gel capsule.

Next, we focused on a key point, i.e. “everything starts small.”  To illustrate this point we invited the students to hold up the gel capsules and try to count the number of seeds they contained…which was very difficult since the seeds are tiny.

Sourwood seeds are extremely small, “smaller than your friend’s lower eyelashes,” so quite a number of them are contained within the gel capsule.

Next, the students were asked to carefully set aside the gel capsules and start the process of “growing” the soil in a little cups provided.  Each kit contained a compressed organic pellet, which expanded to create a seed-nurturing environment – the “soil” – after adding just a little bit of water.

The younger students needed a little bit of help, but soon realized it was just like pouring a glass of milk.

It took about 10 minutes for the pellet to absorb the water and fully expand, during which time we talked about all the things that are in the air, and whether or not plants “breathe.”

Once the pellets absorbed the water, the students used pens to loosen the top of the soil, getting it ready to sow the seeds.


Next came the Big Moment – adding the seeds!  Each student was asked to hold their gel capsule gently but firmly in two hands over the cup, and then pull the two halves apart.  The students then dropped the seeds into the cup and the growth started!

When most of the seeds had been dropped into the cup the students carefully spread them out across the top of the soil.  Using a pen cap as a mini-spade, they gently covered the seeds with a thin layer of the soil.

Everyone was then asked to say “HHHHHI!” to their future tree, thus giving it a friendly, nurturing dose of the CO2 and H2O contained in their breath.

Finally, we asked the students to put the cap back on their kits and take them home.  Each student was given a one-page sheet, explaining to parents and guardians what their students had done that day.  The fact sheet also said that Sourwood trees like moisture and direct sun to help choose a good place in their house that gets a lot of light.

Most importantly, we stressed to the students to BE PATIENT.  Things that are valuable often take time to come together, i.e. growing trees “isn’t like a video game.”  We also talked about how sometimes things don’t work out, even though you did everything properly.  Nature can be fickle so don’t despair and try again.

Happy Sourwood seedling after six months


Again, special thanks to all the donors who helped make this happen: The President and Executive Committee from the Payne Elementary PTA, individual ForestPlanet supporters such as attorney and entrepreneur Howard Yellen, Ecoprint, and the Sonia Ntuk State Farm Insurance Agency in Washington, DC.

WE WOULD LIKE TO DO THIS AGAIN!  If your business or school is interested in participating in a lesson program like one this starting early in 2020 please send us an email at partnerships@forestplanet.org.  We promise to respond right away.


ForestPlanet is a 501(c)3 organization that supports large scale, low cost-per-tree reforestation efforts all over the world. We help plant trees in regions where they have the greatest positive impact on the soil, the environment, local habitat, and communities in peril. We helped plant over 60,000 trees in 2018 and hope to increase this significantly increase this number in 2019. Our goal is to connect people in the developed world with communities needing support, through tree planting projects both large and small. Your financial support is greatly appreciated.


Questions about ForestPlanet?  Do you have any updates on your kit to share?  Got any photos you want to show off?  Please feel free to comment below, and/or send photos to partnerships@forestplanet.org which we’ll then add to this post.  Thanks in advance for your participation!



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