Clarence Smith Nature Reserve, ON (Photo by NCC)

Clarence Smith Nature Reserve, ON (Photo by NCC)

Helping get Ontario kids’ hands dirty

Participants in the Trees for Schools Program (photo courtesy of Copernicus Educational Products)

Participants in the Trees for Schools Program (photo courtesy of Copernicus Educational Products)

Education is important to Jim Phillips, CEO of Copernicus Educational Products; especially when it’s hands-on. That’s just one of the reasons that his organization began its Trees for Schools program.

Now in its eighth year, Trees for Schools provides seedlings to elementary students in southern Ontario, and encourages them to plant trees as a way of making a positive contribution to the environment. The program is open to any school in southwestern Ontario and kids take home their trees or wildflower seeds to plant at home in their own backyards.

“We started with a thousand trees in 2009. This year we increased the amount to 35,000 trees and over 5,000 wildflower seed packs,” says Jim.

This year was their best ever, reports Jim.

“When we started the program, we had to call schools to ask them if they wanted free trees. We did everything we could to get rid of them. This year, the majority of the trees and seed packs were given away within 24 hours of the launch of the program. It’s really increased in popularity.”

Over 50 per cent of the trees went to the Greater Toronto Area this year. Interest from urban schools was one of the reasons that Copernicus offered wildflower seed packs this year, for those kids that might not have the room to plant a tree.

Copernicus Educational Products, a manufacturer of educational equipment for schools, libraries and daycares, has been supporting the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC’s) efforts in Ontario since 2010. This past Giving Tuesday, November 29, 2016, Copernicus supported NCC and encouraged other individuals and corporations to donate by doubling every donation NCC received. The campaign was hugely successful.

As a partner with Copernicus, NCC has offered expert advice on the type of seedlings to provide, helping to ensure that planting initiatives are best suited to the region. The 2017 Trees for Schools Program distributed white cedar and white spruce saplings along with wildflower seeds, which contain a mixture of native Ontario seeds.

“Depending on where the trees are going, we made sure that the schools got trees that were right for their seed zone,” says Jim.

Planting trees helps increase the resilience of our natural areas by fostering links between core habitat areas. Maintaining connectivity is a key strategy for protecting biodiversity and maintaining viable ecosystems and wildlife populations. Trees are the foundation of a healthy environment, and NCC applauds Copernicus Educational Products’ initiative to provide this learning opportunity to students, teachers and parents alike.

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