By Jill Erickson
After a two-month delay due to COVID-19, high school students from East High School ventured out into the woods at Blue Valley Park to experience a day in the life of an urban forester. The Youth Forestry Program was part of the Green Guard Stewardship Training Program this spring.
“I think that the connections and knowledge I'll gain will aid me in my career as I seek to blend engineering with environmental,” stated Atra-Niese Jones, a graduating senior in her application to participate. “Plus I love trees.”
The project is funded by the Missouri Department of Conservation T.R.I.M. grant program and aims to train high school youth as stewards in order to introduce them to future forestry careers. Leading the two-day workshop was Sarah Crowder, Program Manager for Heartland Tree Alliance and Molly Gosnell, owner Midwest GeoInfo Services.
“At first, we had to cancel the classes scheduled for spring break back in March,” said Jill Erickson, Executive Director, Heartland Conservation Alliance. “But working with our partners and funders, we had to find a way to finish strong for these students – many of them graduating this year.”
"There are so many jobs in the forestry field whether it be in the private industry, with a government agency or even owning your own business," said Sarah Crowder. "Bridging The Gap is excited for this opportunity to work with the students to highlight those opportunities."
On the first day, students learned about trees and tree care from Sarah Crowder. Using tablets in the field, they learned how to use i-Tree Design and will conduct a tree inventory led by Molly Gosnell. On the second day they learned how to prune and plant trees and met foresters Chuck Conner, with Missouri Department of Conservation, and Alice Hannon, with the city of Kansas City, Missouri.
“We had four really strong Green Guard Classes in February and March at East High School,” shared Molly Gosnell, owner of Midwest GeoInfo. “The students were really excited to be in the woods and learn first-hand about how important trees are to their city. We were heartbroken when we had to cancel everything due to Covid-19.”
Green Guard Stewardship was created in 2015 by Heartland Conservation Alliance to introduce communities to conservation in their neighborhood, help residents connect with resources and inspire love of nature. The East High School program focuses efforts to restore and care for 13 acres of woodland on the school property. Local experts volunteer to teach the classes so students meet and connect with a broad pool of conservationists.
“I want to know about the environment,” shared Anthony Perez-Estrada, a graduating senior. “And ways to help our community not go kaput."