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School News
OMS kids help plant trees

by Lance Farrell

May 02, 2012

OMS sixth-graders (from left) Megan Bellairs, Riley Fritsche, and Paige Anolick pose with some very small oak trees. Photo by Lance Farrell
"I can grow a thousand trees, but I can't find a thousand places to plant them. That's why I need help from you guys," said Doug Pettypiece to the sixth-graders in Andrew McDonald's science class at Oxford Middle School on Friday morning.

Pettypiece is the founder of Trees for Living and Learning, an eco-educational organization out of Lake Orion, now in its second year. Pettypiece, a woodworker by trade, donates soil, planters and acorns by the thousands to area schools and then lets the students take over the project.

McDonald was thrilled to have the woodwright visit on Arbor Day. Given the lessons he's been teaching the class about ecosystem and habitats recently, he thought the hands-on oak -planting session was timely.

While Pettypiece addressed his students, McDonald would interject from time to time. He emphasized to the class the tremendous importance that oak trees hold for wildlife like turkey, blue jays, deer and mice.

The donated acorns are tended by the students once Pettypiece leaves; within two weeks, the acorns sprout and then in six weeks each student has a strong seedling. Within 10 years each seedling can reach 20 feet, and then begin dropping acorns after 20 years.

And that's more about their lifetime, not ours, Pettypiece said. Certainly "we want to help the environment, Pettypiece admitted, but the real objective is to "help the kids realize this is their future, and that they'll be able to enjoy these trees."

The shade and oxygen will benefit them, not us, Pettypiece went on. Global warming will be an issue to affect these students and future generations; "we'll be long dead and gone" when the full effects of climate change are felt, said Pettypiece.

You could hear the students' amazement as Pettypiece told of them of the trees' longevity.

Pettypiece: "These trees are going to live 100 years."

Sixth-grade science class: "Whoa!"

Pettypiece: "When you plant, think ahead, because these trees can grow about 60-70 feet tall."

Sixth-grade science class: "Whoa!"

Pettypiece feels children can always use a better long-term view, and that's what his organization hopes to foster. It's easy for a school to "plant a tree and say they're green," Pettypiece observed, but in his program students are involved in the entire process.

It's more important to "give the kids the connection" and have them personally understand and experience the bond that comes from seeing a seed turn into a plant than to just give them a tree.

To learn more about Pettypiece and his programs for students, visit his website (