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Students, staff plant trees to clean air on campus

Staff Photo: Meghan Kotowski Volunteers from the nonprofit Trees Atlanta demonstrated how to plant a tree for the students at Louise Radloff Middle School Thursday afternoon.

Staff Photo: Meghan Kotowski Volunteers from the nonprofit Trees Atlanta demonstrated how to plant a tree for the students at Louise Radloff Middle School Thursday afternoon.

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Staff Photo: Meghan Kotowski More than 30 students, parents and staff from Louise Radloff Middle School planted 10 trees on the school's campus Thursday afternoon.

DULUTH -- Louise Radloff Middle School has Interstate 85 in its backyard.

Those who use the outdoor classroom are interrupted by the noise and air pollution that comes the cars and trucks whizzing down the road.

To help solve this problem for the Duluth school, Mothers and Others for Clean Air, which is part of the American Lung Association in Georgia, Trees Atlanta and Georgia State's Institute of Public Health partnered up together to plant trees on its campus, with funding through a grant from Kaiser Permanente.

"What we're working on today is a vegetative barrier project to reduce pollution exposure on school campuses," said Rebecca Watts Hull, Director of Mothers and Others. "We know this (school) isn't in an ideal location in terms of pollution exposure from cars and trucks, but school systems often don't have many choices -- if any at all -- in terms of where they have reasonably priced land for building."

After receiving funding in November, Hull and others looked for schools 150 meters from busy roads. Once selecting a few, they visited the sites, which whittled the list down to five. Radloff Middle is the first school to be a part of the new project.

"This project is an effort to address those schools where the interstate is not going to move and the school is not going to move," Hull said. "There is research that indicates that bushy trees that provide a nice, solid screen significantly reduces ultra-fine particulate matter concentrations."

And Shannon Raysin, Radloff math teacher and co-sponsor to the Environmental Club, couldn't be more excited to have her campus chosen for the trees.

"I had already told my (Environmental Club) that they needed to work on projects -- whatever they wanted to do, we'll make it happen," she said. "One of the groups wanted to plant trees. When (Hull) contacted me, I was like, 'Oh my God, that's perfect.'"

The two women collaborated to make the tree planting happen.

On Thursday afternoon, more than 30 students, volunteers, parents and staff dug holes, broke up tree roots and watered the soil for 10 new Eastern red cedars lining the fence along I-85.

"I think it's really important for our children's children in the future to plant these trees," Louise Radloff said, who was at the school to help.

The students were getting dirty with sweat and soil to make a difference at the school.

"I wanted to come plant to help us," sixth-grader Ma'Ya Davis said. "Without trees, we wouldn't be breathing. I like helping the world by cleaning up."

Next week, Trees Atlanta returns to Radloff Middle to plant eight 15-foot trees. Then the project will be complete. The most important thing is that the students learn from the experience, according to Raysin.

"I hope they feel a sense of pride when they see everything (completed)," she said.