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South Jordan Journal

South Jordan ninth graders help plant trees on campus, learn new skills

Feb 05, 2020 01:22PM ● By Libby Allnatt

Students at Mountain West Montessori Academy line up to help shovel dirt for the planting of the school’s new trees. (Sheri Ebert/Mountain West Montessori Academy)

Libby Allnatt | [email protected]

A South Jordan school will now have some more shade on campus, thanks to a local nonprofit organization and the hard work of students. 

Mountain West Montessori Academy was a recent recipient of a grant from TreeUtah, an organization that seeks to plant trees and educate people about their environmental benefits. 

Sheri Ebert, assistant director at Mountain West Montessori Academy, said that while faculty was there as support, the project was mainly an undertaking of the students. 

“We’re always trying to build leadership skills, so rather than adults writing this grant, we thought it would be a good opportunity for our ninth graders,” she said. 

Ebert said they got the application on the TreeUtah website and spent about two months working on it, with a group of students in honors writing courses being heavily involved and learning new skills in the process, like the type of language to use when writing a public grant. 

“They were so pleased they had an authentic writing opportunity,” Ebert said.

The students also had to research the types of trees that would work for planting. The three trees they got were a common hackberry, a maidenhair and a honey locust. 

When it came time for the planting, it was a group effort, with every ninth grader coming outside to help dig the holes. 

Students got involved with the project even further when it came time to vote on names for the trees. The winning names: Wallace, Little Maple, and Rosie (“our librarian just recently had a baby, and the kids love this baby, and that’s the name,” said Ebert).

“The students wanted the trees to be more than just trees for shade,” Ebert said. “They wanted students to use them for observation, for art, for the different seasons, for science. There are lots of different opportunities for authentic learning.”

Ebert said students will have a continued role in taking care of the trees. 

“In the summer, they will be assigned watering when it’s really hot; we will have students weeding around the trees,” she said. “They will be very involved.” 

Mountain West Montessori Academy ninth grader Alastair Dunn, who was involved with the project, said the hardest part was taking time during school to work on the grant. He also said it was a fun experience to work together. 

“I hope [students] learn that if you work together, you can get a lot of things done,” he said. 

Dunn said planting trees is important for the environment. 

“First of all, it can give kids some place to hang out during recess, or shade during the summer,” Dunn said. “Also, it gives oxygen, which is something that we’re lacking in the air with all the pollution.”

TreeUtah Executive Director Amy May said tree-plantings at schools are a great way to get students engaged with outdoor activities and to have environmental education right in their own schoolyard.

“Engaging students is great way to teach them the proper ways to plant trees, to get them thinking about the way trees benefit their school and their environment, and taking that knowledge home and encouraging more people to plant trees in their yards and appreciate them for what they are,” May said. 

May said due to evaporation, a mature tree will cool the environment as much as 10 room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day. 

“The cooling helps what they call the heat island effect,” she said. “In areas where there’s more asphalt and blacktop, it’s often up to 25 degrees hotter, especially in the hot parts of summer. [Trees] help cool cities and make them more livable and make it more pleasant to be outside when it’s hot. Along the Jordan River, trees help stabilize the banks and eliminate erosion.”

May said TreeUtah is currently soliciting for school-planting grants, with applications to plant in the spring due March 1. TreeUtah staff will help accommodate any age group of students for the planting with tools and education. Learn more information at