Plant a tree, save a village.

Although Earth Day happens only once a year, it is important that we strive to care for the earth year round.  Take notes from Anne Hallum, who made it her mission to help the rural land of Guatemala, a land that is often destroyed by frequent mudslides.  It can take only seconds for a sheet of mud to slip down a hillside community and wipe out everything in its path.  Along with losing all their possessions, many lives have been taking by these dangerous machines.  Many of the mudslides, which occur during the rainy season starting May and ending around October, are a result of hurricanes, heavy rainstorms and earthquakes.

Despite their overwhelming devastation, Hallum knew that Guatemala could take a stand against mudslides, literally.  When trees and various growth stood against the mudslides, their dangerous impact was greatly reduced.  Hallum began her mission while she was working as a political science professor in florida and traveled to Nueva Concepcion, Guatemala, in 1991.  She visited the empty villages where tree has been cut down and farmland had been demolished.  After performing her own research, Hallum understood that it took a specific tree, pine tress, to be planted on a hill-side that prevented the mudslides.

After working with local staff, local Guatemalans are trained to visit with villages to instruct them on the tree planting process and its purpose.  As Hallum states, “We don’t come in, plant some trees and leave. We do that, and they’ll cut them down. It’s a step-by-step process that starts with education. In a little time, they notice their crops are doing better; mudslides aren’t happening. And the behavior changes: They start to protect the trees. We say: ‘All right, you’ve got it. You know how to do this now.’ Then we leave … on to the next village.”

Officially titled, The Alliance for International Reforestation, otherwise known as AIR (ironically), is proceeding to plant and educate their way through Guatemala. without the instruction and educational guidance of trained locals, the tree planting with have been pointless.

Present the informational video to your class and have them discuss the importance of educating locals in addition to the actual tree planting.  Encourage them to see why educating others is a vital part of progression.  Create a web in front of the class and have students share other areas where education is necessary to excel.  For independent work, have students browse the official Alliance for International Reforestation website where they can view galleries of past devastation and the progress that has been made.  Make sure they take a look at the educational process and the detailed training the local Guatemalans take before planting trees.  Have students make a list of the important elements of tree planting.

Although you may not experience muslides in your region, planting trees has a multitude of other benefits.  Yet, Hallum’s goals was not necessarily to plant tress, but to teach other’s it’s importance.  Have your student construct a tree planting program to present to another class or even a young grade.  Ensure that they address the benefits of planting trees, the process of planting trees and how each individual can help in an efficient and productive manner.

After the initial information session, get out and plant some tress!  After contacting school and local officials, offer to plant trees near the school playground to at a local park.  Consider planting at the town library or recreation center as well.

How do you find Hallum’s role similar to your own in the teaching profession i.e. the purpose of teaching others rather than merely completing the work for them? 

Are you always succesful?  How can you improve upon this success?


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