Sixth-graders turned arborists

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On a soggy May morning, sixth graders from Peck Elementary School walked through the squishy green grass to spots around the park where shovels and brand new trees awaited them.

The city of Arvada Parks Department and Peck Elementary partnered for the 27th consecutive year to host an Arbor Day tree planting May 8 at Oak Park.

Oak Park lost several trees in a hail storm in 2009 and several cottonwoods near the creek are in natural decline.

“Dudley Weiland, a longtime teacher at Peck who’s retired now, came to us back when we were Jeffco Parks and Recreation with the idea to start a tree planting celebration,” said Craig Hillegass, Arvada city forester. “That was our first Arbor Day.”

In those 27 years, the city of Arvada and Peck Elementary School have planted more than 400 trees in parks across the city, including 13 trees at Oak Park this year.

“You’re planting a tree for the future,” Hillegass said. “Those Peck students 27 years ago are in their 30s now and they’ll take their children down and look at the trees they planted. We’re doing something for future generations to enjoy.”

Leaving a legacy and contributing to the community is something sixth graders at Peck learn about too, said teacher Lauren Kreider.

“In sixth grade we talk a lot about leaving a legacy,” Kreider said. “My students are the leaders of the school. We talk about ways that we can make a mark — educationally, socially and even environmentally. Planting trees is a chance to change our community for the good and leave a mark. The kids really took that seriously. They loved having the chance to make an impact on the community.”

Three weeks before the tree planting, the Arvada Parks and Recreation Department takes information about the trees they will be planting to Peck so students can learn about the different trees and make posters about what they learned.

In addition to learning about the 13 different species of trees they planted, sixth graders at Peck also learn about conservation, natural resources and the environment.

“We had to carry on the 27-year-long tradition,” Kreider said. “We felt honored to be a part of such a special tradition.”

This is also the 22nd year Arvada has been recognized as a Tree City by the Arbor Day Foundation.

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