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Johnny Apple Tree saplings come to Morris-area schools

MORRIS – Over the past two weeks, four schools in the Morris area have planted trees that were offshoots of a tree planted by John Chapman, or Johnny Appleseed as he’s most known to Americans.

White Oak Elementary School reading interventionist Trudy DesLauriers said, in conversation with a retired teacher, she learned about a movement called Seedlings for the Future by the Illinois State Historical Society.

It allotted a specific number of offshoots of the last known living apple tree planted by Chapman, which resided in Ohio.

According to the ISHS, Chapman traveled throughout the Midwestern states of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio to plant apple nurseries with seeds from the cider mill near his Pennsylvania home.

The Algeo Family Farm in Nova, Ohio, was one of his wayside stops and the tree planted there was the last known living apple tree.

The ISHS waned to offer the trees to each county of the state of Illinois to commemorate the bicentennial of Illinois statehood, which will take place December 3, 2018.

Trudy DesLauriers said she thought it would be neat for the schools in Morris to have these trees because Johnny Appleseed has been gone for years and years, but these trees are still here and could bear fruit for years to come.

Nettle Creek Elementary, Immaculate Conception and Saratoga Elementary joined White Oak Elementary with the tree plant, each with its own unique way to plant and infuse in future curriculum.

ICS Principal Kim DesLauriers said that when the school’s tree arrived, they kept it in the hallway for three days in order for the students to see the tree and ask questions. He knew the Rev. Ed Howe of Immaculate Conception Church loved the building and grounds and when he asked if he wanted to plant the tree, he was all over it, DesLauriers said.

“Father Ed found a spot for the tree and planted it somewhat out of the way in a grass section near the church on North Street. He planted and we pray it will grow and produce apples,” DesLauriers said.

DesLauriers said that kids have read the story of Johnny Appleseed, which includes myth and truth, but to have a shoot of the last know tree to have survived was going to be neat for the kids.

Saratoga Elementary Principal Joe Zweeres also wanted to be involved for the education aspect what the tree represented. He had Phil Struck of custodial maintenance plant the tree in the back of the school protected by the building and out of the way of the playground to ensure its safety.

Now that they have the tree, Zweeres said, “The kids have room to gather around it and teachers can loop lessons around it in the spring. This is a centerpiece to celebrate history of Johnny Appleseed.”

The maintenance crew at White Oak Elementary planted its tree Nov. 3 toward the front of the school and plans to have a dedication on Nov. 21 when the Pre-K students, who finished a project on apples, will tell the story of Johnny Appleseed.

“This gives us an opportunity to teach kids and make it realistic. They can do worksheets on apples or cut open apples, but this is yet another step to make learning come alive, it’s a perfect fit,” White Oak Elementary Principal David Raffel said.

Nettle Creek sixth grade ELA teacher, Kelly Martin said the tree at Nettle Creek will soon plant its tree in the backyard of the school next to the butterfly garden.

“We hope the students of Nettle Creek Elementary School will be able to make connections to the Johnny Appleseed unit that they study,” Martin said.

Raffel, being new to the Morris area, said he hoped to bring a greater sense of community to the students at White Oak Elementary and this was one step in that direction.

“Since I have been at White Oak Elementary, I’ve been trying to promote a community feel, and the schools are working so well together, this is symbolic how we are all in this together,” Raffel said.

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