First grade students used “grownup” tools to plant trees, learn about the environment


"I didn't know we were going to do this. I lost my mind doing this," said first grader Jacob Hencroth.

SPRINGFIELD, Va. (WDVM) — On Tuesday, some first-grade students from Fairfax County’s Forestdale Elementary school took advantage of the beautiful weather to plant two trees on their school’s front lawn.

“I didn’t know we were going to do this. I lost my mind doing this,” said first-grader Jacob Hencroth.

The activity was part of a bigger mission to encourage urban forestry in the Lee District of the county. Lee District resident and Fairfax County parent Monica Perz-Waddington, concerned about climate change, contacted the county’s Tree Commission, which contacted Fairfax’s Department of Urban Forestry, to get it started.

“There’s a global climate crisis and I read an article about talking to children about the crisis and if we just scare them with bad news it sort of just makes us all impotent. What we need to do is give them something they can do to make a difference,” said Perz-Waddington.

While students get to revisit what they’ve learned about the water cycle, they also get to try out a number of “jobs,” like shoveling, raking, and stomping on dirt.

First-grader Judi Kayali got to test out a shovel. “I got to use digging stuff and grownup stuff for digging,” said Kayali, who said the activity was “really fun.”

The Tree Commission says all the Lee District public schools have expressed interest in planting trees. A local high school participated about two weeks ago. Perz-Waddington wants the effort to branch out into other districts within the county.

“As soon as a child can touch a tree they become invested in the future of the tree and how that symbiotic relationship is between the success of the tree and the success of us,” said Perz-Waddington.

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