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Texas Trees Foundation is Creating ‘Cool Schools’ on DISD Elementary Campuses

Campus tree groves planted with generous support from The Boone Family Foundation. Texas Trees Foundation is embarking on a vision for greener schools by expanding the urban tree canopy to Dallas elementary school campuses.

Campus Tree Groves Planted with Generous Support from The Boone Family Foundation

Texas Trees Foundation is embarking on a vision for greener schools by expanding the urban tree canopy to Dallas elementary school campuses. The Cool Schools program will offer campuses much more than shade. Included in the goal of increasing the urban tree canopy, the program offers a DISD-approved, STEM-based curriculum that will enhance experiential learning, engage teachers and students in service learning projects, provide DISD staff training, and promote stewardship and beautification. Once implemented, the program could generate an estimated $50 million value in ecosystem services for Dallas in the next 40 years.

“The Cool Schools program will help educate children in DISD elementary schools and their teachers about the value of trees while adding much-needed tree groves to our city to help mitigate the increase in heat brought on by the urban heat island effect,” said Janette Monear, CEO of Texas Trees Foundation. Ultimately, the Texas Trees Foundation would like to work with 151 elementary schools in Dallas over the next 8-10 years.

According to the State of the Dallas Urban Forest Report (available for download on the Texas Trees Foundation website), the urban heat island effect is amplifying the heat index and raising the temperatures. Four factors driving this urban temperature anomaly include: 1) loss of vegetation, which reduces moisture in the local climate system, 2) replacement of vegetation with impervious materials, 3) waste heat from vehicles, industry and building air conditioning, and 4) trapping of heat by “canyons” of buildings.

“Extreme heat events will grip urban areas with increasing frequency, and this heat phenomenon is emerging as the principal climate-related threat to human health,” said Dr. Brian Stone, associate professor in the School of City and Regional Planning at the Georgia Institute of Technology and author of The City and the Coming Climate: Climate Change in the Places We Live.

Currently, 95 percent of Dallas Independent School District campuses lack the recommended tree canopy, making them urban heat islands and opportunities to create carbon sinks. Urban forestry on school campuses cultivates green, healthy playgrounds and brings other benefits from energy cost reduction for schools to stress reduction for children and teachers.

As part of its Cool Schools program, The Texas Trees Foundation anticipates completing projects at four schools during the 2016-2017 school year. The program officially launches this fall following the recent completion of two successful pilot projects funded with generous support from The Boone Family Foundation.

The first two schools participating in the program included Felix Botello Elementary and Onesimo Hernandez Elementary. The Felix Botello Elementary project, which launched in February, began with the formation of a school Green Team that included participating teachers. The Texas Trees Foundation provided DISD-approved, STEM-based curriculum training to participating teachers. Planning and design of landscape involved students from each grade level. The final plan, a DISD-approved curriculum-based design called the Cool Schools Curriculum, drives the design of the landscape, resulting in an outdoor learning environment where the curriculum activities can take place.

The Felix Botello Elementary design includes 89 trees of various sizes and species, an outdoor classroom/amphitheater, labyrinth, naturescape play and learning area, butterfly/hummingbird garden, bird observation opportunities, pathways, and rainwater filtration garden. A tree-planting day involved participation from each grade level on April 27th and held a celebration day with students, faculty, administration and Texas Trees Foundation staff on May 16th.

The Onesimo Hernandez Elementary project also launched in February with a format and results similar to the Felix Botello Elementary program. The final design includes 84 trees of various sizes and species, an outdoor classroom/amphitheater, naturescape play and learning area, butterfly/hummingbird garden, bird observation opportunities, pathways, expanded flower and vegetable garden, and two rainwater filtration gardens. A tree-planting day of 84 trees with participation from each grade level took place on May 4th, with additional support from Southwest Airlines volunteers.

“The size of the trees is impressive! They are of such girth already that they grace the place with their imposing presence, something we really needed without even knowing it,” wrote a dedicated teacher and Green Team leader from Hernandez Elementary. “The great news is we don’t have to wait a generation to enjoy full benefits of adult trees. The school already looks a million times better with these very impressive young trees!”

The celebration day with students, faculty, administration and Texas Trees Foundation staff will be held on May 20th. For more information, contact Janette Monear, president and CEO of Texas Trees Foundation or Cynthia Cook at (214) 953-1184 or info@texastrees.org.

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