The collaboration of a school principal, a community leader, and PHS Tree Tender volunteers will bring a significant change to the McClure Elementary School in Hunting Park this month with the planting of 16 trees around the campus.
“We have a lot of kids in the neighborhood with asthma, and this will allow them to have a healthier environment and shade to enjoy. It will benefit their physical and mental health,” explains Gabriella Gabriel Paez, of the Esperanza community development organization.
The project started with a PHS Tree Tenders course in January 2018. Gabriella, the Education and Community Development Coordinator at Esperanza, attended the training at PHS with seven neighbors. The Tree Tenders group in Hunting Park now numbers 35.
Gabriella was also instrumental in the first wellness fair held at McClure Elementary last fall, and she and Principal Sharon Marino partnered to create more green space in their community. “This tree planting was a natural next step for us to continue to beautify and create a green welcoming space,” Sharon explains.
Gabriella introduced the Tree Tenders program to Principal Marino and worked out a computer simulation for her to visualize where the trees would be planted. “I supported the school with the application process for the April planting, and we were grateful to receive a special grant from the Philadelphia Commerce Department to plant the trees,” Gabriella says.
Hunting Park is one of the hottest neighborhoods in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on a study done between 2013 and 2015 that showed neighborhoods like Hunting Park could be up to 20 degrees hotter in the summer than neighborhoods with a greater tree cover.
“Sparse tree cover affects more than comfort. Asthma rates, crime, and overall feelings of well-being are negatively impacted by the lack of neighborhood trees. Students with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder might also benefit from another gift of trees. Exposure to trees and green space helps kids with ADHD feel calmer, concentrate longer, and retain more of what they learn,” notes Mindy Maslin, PHS Project Manager.
“Principal Marino’s environmental leadership at McClure is providing a gift to students and teachers that will grow more substantial over the years as the trees mature.”