Third grade class takes part in Sugar Pine restoration
Debbie Kadziauskas is an elementary science teacher at the Lake Tahoe School in Incline Village who takes experiential learning to a whole new level through restoration projects with her students.
The students’ latest restoration project is to bring back the population of Sugar Pine trees in their community, as trees in California have been dying by the millions in the past decade.
According to the USDA Forest Service, 129 million trees have died in California due to drought and bark beetles since 2010. These trees were primarily located in the central and southern regions of the Sierra Nevada.
Kadziauskas decided to use this problem as a teachable moment for her students to make a positive change in their community.
The 20 third graders planted around 30 Sugar Pine seedlings in an open area near the Marlette Flume Trail in Incline Village the first week of December.
“We spent a lot of time in class learning about how to plant a Sugar Pine, how to pick a good area, and then learning about the life cycle of a Sugar Pine and all of its threats. We did a lot of that before we actually participated in planting,” said Kadziauskas.
Kadziauskas plans to take her classes back to visit their Sugar Pines as soon as the snow melts, in order to monitor progress by measuring the length of the trees. She said that she wants to continue to monitor the trees’ progress year after year.
The third grade class was very enthusiastic about planting the trees. A couple of students took down the exact coordinates of their Sugar Pine seedlings and plan on going back on weekends with their parents to check up on them, said Kadziauskas.
“They kind of look at it like it’s their own adopted tree,” Kadziauskas joked.
According to Kadziauskas, Sugar Pines have been on the decline ever since the logging industry began in Incline Village.
Additionally, Sugar Pines can be infected by a parasite brought over from Europe known as “blister rust.”
Sugar Pines used to make up 25% of the local forest, though over the years that number has gone down to around 5%, said Kadziauskas.
“It helps stimulate more awareness of the local forests that they live in and it helps them understand the function of the forest. I think it makes them become better stewards to the area – they’re more conscientious of what it means to take care of the forest,” Kadziauskas said.
The Sugar Pines planted by the third graders have a naturally immunity to blister rust.
Her goal is to bring back the original population with Sugar Pines that can naturally fight against the blister rust so that future generations will be able to thrive in their environment.
“I think that it’s really important to make them aware and it’s awesome that we have the ability to apply our knowledge … Getting them to actually participate and visit the setting is a real effective way to spark their awareness,” Kadziauskas said.
Elizabeth White is a staff writer with the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at email@example.com
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