The Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Forestry Division is accepting applications for the 2021 Shade Trees on Playgrounds (STOP) program through October 8.
Selected schools receive up to 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 this fall.
Urban forestry staff began the STOP program 19 years ago to help lower adult skin cancer risk by reducing childhood exposure to direct sunlight on school playgrounds. Since then, more than 135 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.
“The STOP program combines hands-on, outdoor experiences with classroom curriculum about the importance of trees and how to care for trees,” says Urban Forestry Program Coordinator, Kristine Kimbro. “We hope this program not only improves the health of Arkansas students, but also leaves a lasting impression about the value of forests and how to be good stewards of our natural resources.”
Trees are chosen by Forestry Division staff to fit the unique region and conditions of each playground. Sycamores, oaks, tulip poplars, and black gum trees are common species 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 18, 2021
-- 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 school-wide tree-planting ceremony
-- Hold a tree-planting ceremony prior to December 17, 2021 (can be held with limited attendance and livestreamed or recorded for later playback to larger audience)
-- 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.