When it came time to choose her Compass 9 project, it didn’t take freshman Caroline Harkless long to decide: she wanted to highlight Arbor Day by planting trees on campus. “I’ve always had a passion for the environment,” she said, “and I think it’s something we all have the power to improve.”
Compass 9 projects are a year-long, student-led research projects that encourage 9th-graders to engage with the broader community, and deepen their interest in, and knowledge of, a particular area. For her project, Harkless sought the help of Kip Jacobs ’74, 7th grade science teacher. Together, they scouted campus to select an area for planting and identified which types of trees would be best suited for the area and soil type. They ordered 150 saplings of Burr Oak, Silver Maple, and American Sycamore varieties, which grow quickly and are well-suited to the clay soil on campus.
Harkless worked with prekindergarten and 9th-grade science teachers to identify a day and time when the students could meet and plant the trees together. “I wanted to create an experience where younger and older students could plant a tree together,” said Harkless. “Hopefully, it will draw people back to the school who can say, ‘This is the tree that I helped to plant.’ Even by planting one tree, they’ve changed the school.” In addition to planting the trees, prekindergarten students decorated the plastic grow tubes that surround the saplings and protect them from animals.
“When Caroline told me she wanted to do Arbor Day as her Compass 9 project, I was so thrilled,” said Jacobs. “She has done such a terrific job. Thanks to her help, we are adding much-needed variety to the tree population on campus and creating a wonderful outdoor learning habitat.”
Both Harkless and Jacobs want this to be the first of many tree-planting events, which will tie into a greater campus master plan involving the removal of invasive plant species, the creation of a variety of outdoor habitats, and further strengthening USM’s outdoor education initiatives.
“This type of project needs the support of the whole community to nurture it and help it grow,” said Harkless. “Hopefully this will be a tradition that’s carried on by future generations for years to come.”
The tree-planting project, along with other outdoor education initiatives, have been generously supported by Jean and Peter Storer, parents of Kim ’98 and Kelly ’01, through the George B. Storer Foundation.