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Never Underestimate the Power of Kindergartners

Joe Henderson Elementary Students Flex Their Environmental Muscles

Seventy-five kindergarten students at Joe Henderson Elementary School planted twenty-two trees on their campus as a part of a campus forestry initiative co-sponsored by the Benicia Tree Foundation (BTF) and the Benicia Unified School District (BUSD). Henderson School Principal Carin Garton, three Kindergartner teachers, and more than a dozen parents supported the students’ efforts. Wolfram Alderson, BTF Executive Director, commented that “Most of the trees that were planted were twice as tall as the students that planted them. It is quite impressive to see these young people take on a demanding task that to the casual observer may seem beyond their ability. These trees were planted on a steep slope on the perimeter of the school playground. When you stand back and look at all these trees, one can’t help but be impressed by what these kindergartners accomplished today.”  

The project was inspired by parents and teachers who requested that barren areas on the campus be planted with trees, and is supported by a grant received through California ReLeaf to plant a total of 80 trees on the Joe Henderson Elementary School campus. The partnership is built upon volunteer support consisting of students, parents, teachers, administrators, and community members.  An additional community planting day is planned for Saturday, February 18, 2012 from 9am to Noon. The event is open to all. Volunteers are encouraged to come dressed ready to get dirty, and bring gloves, a hat and drinking water.  The BTF encourages volunteers to bring tools and encourages donations of shovels, rakes, hole diggers, hoes, and other garden implements.  No RSVP is required, but volunteers may sign up in advance for the project at or email for more information. All participants will be required to sign a waiver & release of liability. Minors also require a signature of a parent or guardian.

The tree planting project builds on a successful planting of 80 trees at Benicia High School. On both campuses, the tree plantings establish windbreaks designed to protect sections of the campuses unprotected by trees. The plantings provide educational as well as environmental benefits that support the City of Benicia’s Climate Action Plan, and encourage students and teachers to take action through applied learning methods. Trees sequester significant amounts of CO2 in their bio-mass, as opposed to other strategies that reduce CO2 consumption. The BTF Board of Directors, comprised of Benicia residents and volunteers, is hopeful that the positive impacts of the campus tree plantings will be analyzed and replicated throughout the BUSD.

Alderson notes that both planting sites are located at the perimeter of large athletic fields where runoff from rain is currently directed mostly toward storm drains. “In addition to improving storm water retention and soil erosion conditions, these new groves of trees will also provide additional shade, lower temperatures on the school grounds, provide an additional windbreak, and improve air quality. Planting trees on school sites impacted by high-traffic corridors and industrial pollution helps to reduce the impact on students and teachers. Trees, when planted in sufficient quantities, also have the ability to mitigate roadway noise and improve the visual aesthetics school campuses.”

The campus forestry initiative is part of a plan to plant 1,000 new trees in Benicia. The Benicia Tree Foundation provides opportunities for parents, students, and community volunteers to act on concerns for the environment and community health and become “Tree Keepers”.  The BTF was established in 2010 and received its initial funding from the Valero Good Neighbors / VIP Settlement. More information about becoming a Benicia Tree Keeper is available at