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WIU student teaches kids a lesson about trees

Arbor Day-related activity concludes with tree planting

MINOOKA — By speaking with one fourth-grade class at Minooka Elementary School, Western Illinois University student and Minooka native Adam VanDolson hopes to spread the desire to plant trees throughout the town.

"You've got 30 kids here. Then they go home and tell their parents, 'I want to plant a tree.' That's 30 trees in the ground, possibly," VanDolson said. "Then once they tell their friends, the whole class is doing it."

VanDolson is an agricultural business major at WIU. He was assigned to speak to a class about the importance of planting trees in recognition of Arbor Day, Friday, April 27. He chose to visit Lindsay Greenberg's fourth-grade class at Minooka Elementary, the class his little sister Jacqui is in, on Monday, April 23. 

"He taught us what lives in trees and what they need to survive and what nutrients they need," Jacqui said. She was very excited to have her big brother visiting her class because he has never been to her school before.

After listening to VanDolson speak, the students were able to plant a tree next to the playground at the school.

"We put (the tree) in the dirt, then watered it and put mulch on it," Jacqui said. 

VanDolson and the fourth-graders planted a silver maple tree, donated by Scott Baxter, husband of the school's principal, Natalie Baxter, and owner of Prairie Wood Nursery in Minooka. VanDolson said they chose a silver maple because it will grow fast and will provide shade for the playground.

He estimated the tree to be about five years old now and predicted it to be about 80 feet tall by the time it's done growing.

The WIU class was to select a school in a town that was not already a Tree City USA member.

Tree City USA is a program sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation providing direction, technical assistance, public attention and national recognition for urban and community forestry programs, according to the Arbor Day Foundation website, at

This was not Minooka Elementary's first experience with planting trees, however. In third grade, the students were able to take their own trees home to plant with their parents, Greenberg said.

"It's important (to plant trees) because we need oxygen and shade," said fourth-grader Mason Wittkofski. "It gets rid of our carbon dioxide."

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