Whigham Elementary students to become 4th grade foresters

By Gary Alan Ruse….

Pictured are (l-r, top row) Bill Meiklejohn, Councilmember Peggy Bell, Mayor Ed MacDougall, principal Susan J. Lyle and assistant principal Madelyn Sierra-Hernandez; (second row) Kaylee Fornaris, Gizcel Miranda, Sebastian Rodriguez, Astier Pupo and Alexis Standring; (third row) Brandon Moore, Cory Castrillo, Nelson Pausa, teacher Elaine Stevenson, Zaria Brooks and Ethan Tait; (front row) Barrin Howard, Raees Muzaffar, Anna Abarca, Ashlyn Stringer and Marcus Renoit.

One hundred students of Dr. Edward L. Whigham Elementary School in Cutler Bay on Jan. 14 will be given young trees they can raise as part of a local Arbor Day program, thanks to donations by three area benefactors.

Morgan Levy, administrator of the South Dade Soil and Water Conservation District (SDSWCD) explained the importance of the effort.

“This gives each fourth grader a personal interest in caring for our environment, especially now with global warming being addressed with the planting of more trees,” Levy said.

School principal Susan J. Lyle was pleased by the opportunity the students were being given by the personal donations made by a prominent business leader and two town officials who decided to get involved to make the project happen by providing the costs of the trees out of their own pockets.

“Whigham Elementary is so happy to participate in the fourth grade Foresters of Florida program sponsored through the South Dade Soil and Water Conservation District,” Lyle said. “Each fourth grader will receive a free seedling tree to take home, plant, and care for as they grow up together.

“We appreciate the generosity of our sponsors — Bill Meiklejohn, Councilwoman Peggy Bell and Mayor Ed MacDougall. It is so important to teach our students to take care of our environment and planting native trees is a wonderful way to contribute to our ecosystem.”

Levy said the seedling trees are all slash pines, which are native Florida trees. The donors had expressed the concern that the seedlings be native trees, pointing out that the town has adopted an extensive landscaping plan for roads in Cutler Bay that uses native plants exclusively.

In Florida, Arbor Day is celebrated on the third Friday of January.

An extension of the State of Florida, the SDSWCD covers all of Miami-Dade County and works with the public and local, state and federal departments for the protection of the soil and water of the area. It is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that relies on grants to accomplish its goals.

To date, 4,808 seedling Florida slash pine trees have been distributed to fourth graders in Miami-Dade public schools, along with planting instructions and how to care for the tree.

For more information on the SDSWCD and its programs, contact Morgan Levy by calling 305-242-1288 or by email at mlevy@southdadeswcd.org.

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