Dear Lancaster Parents, Family, and Friends...
One component of the Lancaster Central School District logo
is the phrase, “Centers for Learning and Growth” under the image of a tree. I
am excited to tell you about a project that will support learning and growth
for our students at every grade level.
Last spring, high school assistant principal Terry Adamec
and science teacher Christopher Riley began a districtwide effort to grow
seedlings into mature trees to be transplanted at schools around the district. Although
still in the early stages, in a few years all Lancaster residents will be able
to see the progress of the trees.
Last year Riley, who teaches AP environmental science, came
to me asking if the greenhouse at the high school could be made operational
again. It had not been used for many years, but he said he felt that the
greenhouse would be an excellent “lab” for his class to conduct experiments and
have real world experience, even during cold Western New York winters. Maintenance
staff, specifically Nate Mason, Tim Andrews, Jim Budzynski, Kevin Carr, Chris
King, and Robert Park, were up to the task and quickly brought the greenhouse
back into service.
After using it for plants and experiments throughout the
year, last spring Riley received more than 120 seedlings from the Erie County
Soil and Water Conservation District shrub and seedling sale. Riley and his
students selected a variety of species that flourish in this area to care for
in the newly renovated greenhouse. Combined with the seedlings that James
Kotarski, our crew chief, receives each year from the New York State Department
of Environmental Conservation, a total of almost 200 seedlings were planted. Under
the attentive eye of Kotarski and Brian Lorentz, the seedlings were watered
along with our existing landscaping.
Two obstacles that we have encountered in the past when
trying to plant trees are Western New York winters and deer. The greenhouse
will support the small seedlings until they are hearty enough to withstand
winter. In October, a 70-by-40 foot enclosure will be built behind William
Street School so that the trees can be transplanted when appropriate while
keeping them safe from deer. After approximately five to eight years of growth,
the trees will then be moved to their permanent locations at the schools around
We have two main goals for the project.
The first is to educate students from kindergarten through
senior year about trees and the environment. While in the greenhouse, the
seedlings will be cared for by environmental science students as a part of
their curriculum. Once the trees have matured enough, our hope is that classes
and clubs in the lower grade levels will take on the care of the maturing
trees. One thing we have learned is that many students do not know what
environmental science is or why it is important. Through this project, they
will learn about trees in general, what varieties are best for this region, and
how best to care for them. By taking accountability for the trees, students of
all ages will begin to learn about environmental science and be part of this
districtwide project from the beginning. I hope that they will take pride in
seeing the trees they helped to nurture when they pass by our schools for years
The second goal is to beautify the grounds of the school
district. Purchasing mature trees can be very expensive, sometimes thousands of
dollars for a single tree. Seedlings, on the other hand, are donated or can be
purchased for just a few dollars each. By being patient and growing trees from
seedlings, the district can see a significant return on a small investment,
which will save taxpayers money while involving students in a fairly unique
project that beautifies our grounds. The hope is that the program will continue
to grow larger each year. Riley has applied for grants to allow him to buy even
more seedlings, at no cost to the district. This will allow even more
environmental science students to see the progression of growing seedlings and
help to expand the reach of the trees.
One of my favorite things about the project is the fact that
the impact will last for years to come. Generations of students will view the
trees and experience their beauty and benefits. I look forward to seeing this
project grow and hope that all residents will enjoy the trees for years to come
as this initiative takes root in our schools.
Michael J. Vallely, Ph.D.