Sunday, May 15, 2011

The wrong lesson learned the hard way...

A month ago, my class began the most wonderful lesson. We put special bands on 12 trees in our school arboretum to measure tree growth over the next few years. Children in schools all around the world are participating. The project is part of a world-wide program sponsored by Shout Learning and the Smithsonian Institute, to measure the effects of climate change on tree growth around the world. We had to wait a month from the banding to take the first measurement to send to the Smithsonian. A wonderful employee of the BLM helped us identify the trees and is returning tomorrow to teach the students more about each tree as they use the special tool sent by Shout to take the initial reading. What a marvelous opportunity... or so it seemed.

I returned to the arboretum today to take a few photos and make sure everything was ready to go smoothly for our lesson only to discover that most of the tree bands had been removed. Many were destroyed and found in pieces. Some were missing altogether. The arboretum is a fenced area attached to our playground. It is locked from the school side and has a gate on the other side that leads into the yard of a senior housing complex. One of the residents of the complex was walking this morning when I made my sad discovery. She said they frequently watch older kids in the arboretum breaking branches and destroying projects placed there by scout troops and students. They have called the police, but no has ever been caught.

Several years ago, my class participated in a project to place informational signs on a nature trail in a local park. The night before the kids were to take a field trip to enjoy their finished work, we took the signs to the trail. By morning, one was missing, one was in the river, and many others were smashed and broken. I swore never to try another project like that one again.

I am saddened, angry, and disappointed. My students will be devastated. We will still have our tree lesson, but instead of taking measurements with our dendrometer, we will talk about vandalism and respect. A sad day...


  1. I'm SO so sorry Cheryl. How did your students take the sad news today?

    I've asked for replacement Shout measurement bands to be sent to you. Maybe we should figure out how to wire the bands to give off a small electric shock to vandals? Just kidding. But, I hope we can find a way to protect the work of your class.

    With all good wishes,

    Microsoft Partners in Learning/Shout

  2. Thank you, Heidi. My kids were very disappointed and sad. We had our lesson out in the arboretum with the speaker from the BLM. She told the kids about vandalism on public lands. The kids learned a great deal from her about the trees, and cones in particular. I was thinking that the project was over, but if you send new bands we can get them in place. School will be out next week, but I can probably round up some kids in a month to do the measurements. A community member who volunteers in our class left today ready to call public attention to the incident and that may help. I'm not sure how to protect things if they aren't safe in a fenced arbortetum. I think your idea of electric shock is pretty good! The kids started a photostory today about what they learned about the trees and vandalism. Both lifelong lessons. Thank you,

  3. Hi Cheryl. So sorry to hear about the vandalism -- but how about making this a positive. I realize that the arboretum is the one that abuts Sunset Meadows, where my mother-in-law lives. How about we recruit some of the residents and make it an intergenerational project? I would be delighted to recruit some adults to assist. Additionally, if they were involved, they would be more apt to patrol the area for vandals. What do you think about that?
    Cathleen Nardi

  4. That is a wonderful idea, Cathleen. We are in our last couple of days of school and will go out on Wednesday to reband the trees. I will get ahold of you in the next few weeks to talk about your idea. Thank you!