The Arkansas Department of Agriculture is accepting applications for the 2020 Shade Trees on Playgrounds (STOP) program through September 25 for schools needing additional shade on playgrounds.
Selected schools receive five shade trees, mulch, watering supplies, and planting guidelines. Officials with the Arkansas Department of Agriculture's Forestry Division will help plant the trees during a ceremony with students in the fall.
Urban forestry staff began the STOP program 18 years ago to help lower adult skin cancer risk by reducing childhood exposure to direct sunlight on school playgrounds.
Since then, more than 125 Arkansas schools have received trees. The STOP program also provides teachers with a full curriculum about the environmental benefits of trees, how shade reduces skin cancer risks, and tips for keeping trees healthy.
Trees are chosen by Arkansas Forestry Division staff to fit the unique region and conditions of each playground. Lacebark elms, oaks, tulip poplars, and black gum trees are common candidates for the program. To participate in the STOP program a school must meet the criteria below:
-- Lack shade on a school playground.
-- Participate in a STOP workshop to be held virtually on October 21.
-- Use provided curriculum materials to emphasize the importance of trees during the week leading up to the tree-planting event.
-- Involve students in tree-related projects that culminate with a tree-planting ceremony.
-- Hold a tree-planting ceremony prior to January 31, 2021.
-- Be willing to maintain the trees after planting.
Applicants may be any public or private Arkansas school serving grades pre-K through 12, or a non-traditional educational facility such as a juvenile detention center, residential childcare institution, or long-term care facility that has a playground in need of more shaded areas.