Southgate honors tree-planting group

Original members of the Tree Trust shovels dirt onto a planted tree that honors 20 years of Southgate's Tree Trust Friday morning. They are, from left, Polly Jelinek, Bonnie Rippler, Val Cipra, Coni Nelson, Deb Mickelson, DedaRae Graber and Ann Sundal. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Original members of the Tree Trust shovels dirt onto a planted tree that honors 20 years of Southgate’s Tree Trust Friday morning. They are, from left, Polly Jelinek, Bonnie Rippler, Val Cipra, Coni Nelson, Deb Mickelson, DedaRae Graber and Ann Sundal. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Friday morning saw the continuation of a 20-year tradition at Southgate Elementary School.

Southgate students and staff celebrated the 20th anniversary of Tree Trust by planting a Ruby Tears Weeping Crab Tree, donated by Spruce Up Austin. This program allows students to help in planting trees, shrubs and flowers around the school grounds.

Third-grader Isabel Brekke was excited to see the tree get planted. She hopes the tree will last at least 20 years.

Larry Dolphin of the Jay C. Hormel Nature is the Spirit of the Earth for the kids of Southgate Elementary Friday morning. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Larry Dolphin of the Jay C. Hormel Nature is the Spirit of the Earth for the kids of Southgate Elementary Friday morning. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

“[The tree] helps us remember things about it,” Isabel said.

And looking back is one of the things the program wanted to honor this year.

According to Southgate Principle Edwina Harder, the school wanted to honor the founding members of the program.

“It’s a tribute to what a small amount of people can do to make a difference,” Harder said.

About eight of the staff who initially started the program appeared at the tree planting, Don Fox included. They spoke to the kids about why they started the program and what it meant to them. But the program is about more than just one day. It is a learning experience.

“We hope that they learn about just caring for the earth and how important that is,” Harder said. “It is one of those memories that goes with the kids.”

Third-grader Immanuel Guy hopes to come back and see the tree in 40 years. He said this event was important to him because it helps get things growing and make things pretty to look at. He also likes that it doesn’t have to be something done only at school.

“You can do it at home,” Immanuel said.

The program was started after a group of teachers saw the program in the Twin Cities, said Don Fox, the principal of Southgate at the time. The program planted trees, places birdhouses, and placed benches.

“The first year we planted trees by hand,” Fox said. The school staff and students took an entire day to plant about $6,000 worth of trees. In the years after, the school has planted at least one tree a year, along with flowers and shrubs. Some years they have had plaques and memorials for veterans or students who passed away. But a lot of the program goes back to learning.

“I hope [the students] would learn a lot about soils and the planting of trees,” Fox said.

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