Since 2010, the Maria Mitchell Association (MMA)
has been helping to provide all fifth graders on Nantucket a tree to plant in their yards in partnership with Annie Mendelsohn, an islander and steward of our community. When Kim Botelho, MMA’s Director of Education began working for the organization in 2014, she expanded this program significantly. Originally, students picked a tree and we delivered it, but now Kim also provides a one-hour classroom programs for all public and private fifth grade classes on the island. These programs focus on tree biology and morphology, the importance of planting native trees, using a dichotomous key to identify species, and benefits of trees for the community. During this classroom program, children are able to pick their choice of tree from four or five native species. The following week, MMA returns with a tree for every chi Id and provides a planting demonstration for the students. MMA offers all of these programs completely free-of-charge.
The fact that this program highlights community benefits including energy reduction by providing shade and protection from wind, makes it particularly important for our island community. Nantucket receives electricity through two underground cables that stretch nearly 30 miles beneath Nantucket Sound to substations in Cape Cod. Each are capable of carrying up to 74 megawatts of electricity. As our summer population continues to rise along with summer energy demands, we are getting much closer to a need for a third cable. This installation would cost approximately 50 million dollars. The expense of the current infrastructure already accounts for Nantucket’s uncommonly high electricity rates. Nantucket’s electricity rate is already far above the average rate for residents elsewhere in Massachusetts and 1.5 times the national average rate (National Grid, 201 0eNational Grid, 201 0a). The more islanders understand how to save energy and take action to do so, the longer we will be able to maintain our current infrastructure. Audience: This program reaches every fifth grade class on the island.
Approximately 150 children per year receive trees ranging from two to five feet in height to plant around the island. Since its inception, MMA and Annie have provided trees for over 900 children and their teachers. Of those, 450 children participated in the classroom presentations. Use of Local resources and artnerships: Initially, Annie Mendelsohn approached MMA as a representative of the local Rotary Club. She wanted her service project for the club to focus on providing trees to island children. MMA was happy to assist her by connecting to schools and teachers. Each year, she would help raise funding for the Rotary Club and would encourage other club members to support these efforts. The Rotary club sponsored this project from 2011-2014. At that time, under new direction, the club decided to use their donations for scholarships and other projects. Inspired by our community impact and new educational programming provided by Kim, Annie chose to continue getting private donations without the help of the Rotary Club, and took it upon herself, as a concerned island citizen, to support this effort and continues to be a major force behind its success. Also recognizing that some children do not have their own yards to plant in, Kim formed a partnership with the Nantucket Islands Land Bank. The land bank now provides a property on which students can plant their trees if they so choose. Each of the island schools: the Nantucket Elementary School, Nantucket Lighthouse School, and the Nantucket New School are all excited to be part of this effort as well. Funding Sources & Sustainability: MMA receives funding to purchase the trees from Annie and donations made to her for this project. Since 2015, we have applied for grant funding for school programs.
MMA is committed to providing island school programs free-of-charge regardless of grant funding however, in 2016, we received grant funding from the Nantucket Golf Club Foundation. How many students participated: 900 from its inception, 450 attended one-hour classroom programs. Replicable: I believe so, if schools or non-profits can get funding Civic/Community Responsibility (How does this program develop decision-making, citizenship skills, and civic responsibility?): Students learn the value and importance of planting native over nonnative species. This could influence the decisions they make as they get older. Once students learn characteristics of the trees they can choose from including maximum height and width, best soil conditions, fruit bearing or not, they have to decide which is best for their own yards based on those qualities. Children also learn how to plant and care for their tree and are reminded how the tree they are climbing now may have been planted by their grandparents andhat maybe someday their grandchildren will get to climb their tree. Thank you letters received fom children make us believe they are excited about this idea. If they want their own future generations to see their tree, they need to
take care of it today.
Note: Although I understand you are asking for an individual or organization nominations and as her Director, I was going to nominate Kim for her efforts and improvements to this program, I want to acknowledge Annie’s vision and dedication. We could not do this program without her. I believe Kim and Annie make the perfect Environmental Education and Energy partnership. I therefore nominate them as a team.