Manhattan Catholic School students plant a tree to celebrate Arbor Day

AJ Dome, The Manhattan Mercury, Kan.
·3 min read

May 1—Students at Manhattan Catholic Schools celebrated Arbor Day on Friday and continued their environmental studies by planting a new tree.

About 150 children gathered on the north lawn of the MCS campus for an Arbor Day celebration Friday afternoon. Manhattan Mayor Wynn Butler signed a proclamation designating Friday as Arbor Day in the city, and with the help of kindergarteners planted a young crimson sunset maple tree in the lawn space close to Juliette Street.

Patsy Johnson, MCS science, technology, religion, engineering, arts and math (STREAM) coordinator, said teachers are working hard to bring environmental issues to students' minds.

"All week long they've learned about oxygen and trees, and they've done artwork related to the topic," Johnson said.

Kindergartener Warren McKeage, 5, said he did not get to put any dirt on the new tree. He said students made fake mustaches inspired by the book "The Lorax" in class, and that it is important to plant more trees.

"So we can have shade," McKeage said.

Under the direction of MCS science teacher Tyson Vrbas, Johnson said students are engaged in a long-term science experiment relating to trees and their impact. Two grown trees on the north lawn are being monitored by students for their levels of oxygen output and carbon dioxide reduction. Vrbas set up a laptop on top of the MCS middle school building, and Johnson said he can monitor and take readings of how much oxygen the two trees are producing.

"The CO2 and oxygen sensors link up to a computer program," Johnson said. "What we noticed was a drastic reduction in the CO2 level once the leaves came out on the trees, and the oxygen level went up as well."

Johnson said this is a hands-on opportunity to kids to learn about the importance of trees and the quality of life they provide us. She said each student adopted a tree on the school grounds.

"They had to identify the tree, using some apps or by calling people with the (K-State Research and Extension) office to see what the tree was," Johnson said. "Then they tag it and monitor its health."

Johnson said Vrbas will show students in each classroom how to use the CO2 detectors to monitor the oxygen and CO2 levels of each tree. The goal is for kids to take daily readings from their trees and get to see how important trees are on a day-to-day basis.

"It's a great experiment for them," Johnson said. "We have really focused on Arbor Day this week."

Johnson said more environmentally based curriculum is being planned for this summer. Students will take on an aquaponics project next, where they will be watching water levels and observing the effects of carbon dioxide in the air on their aquaponic plants and fish.

"Our kids love playing in the dirt," Johnson said.

Vrbas obtained the CO2 sensors after he received an award for his work on a robotic irrigation system for the school garden. Tech company Vernier awarded him with $1,000 in cash, $3,000 worth of Vernier products, and $1,500 toward expenses to attend an upcoming scientific education conference.

McKeage, along with 5-year-old Hattie Hummerickhouse, are in Jessica Golden's kindergarten class. Hummerickhouse said there are a lot of pretty trees around the school, but they can always use more.

"That way we can breathe," Hummerickhouse said.

McKeage said he tried to plant another on the school field, but it didn't work.

"The dirt got blew away on a night when it was windy," McKeage said.