Monett students celebrate spring with Arbor Day project

Monday, April 13, 2009

Monett Elementary School students celebrated Arbor Day by planting trees and shrubs, finalizing a complete makeover for the school's outdoor classroom.

Skip Mourglia, a USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) forester with the Southwest Missouri RC&D (Resource Conservation and Development), is the one who can be credited for organizing the transition of the classroom's site.

"Last summer, I heard someone was planning to doze the outdoor classroom," said Mourglia. "I approached Monett School Superintendent Dr. Charles Cudney (now retired), about a more environmentally friendly plan to use a forestry grinding machine to renovate the area."

According to Mourglia, the outdoor site where the classroom was held had been neglected since the after-math of the 2007 icestorm. Japanese honeysuckle, evergreen vines and poison ivy had taken over most of the ground area, making it difficult for the class to continue its outdoor participation. Health issues were also a factor due to the potential hazards for children who are allergic to poison ivy.

Under the direction of Cudney, the Monett R-I School District brought a forestry grinder in last June, which instantly turned all the damaged trees and shrubs into mulch.

In an effort to help with funding of the project, Mourglia applied for a grant through the Missouri Department of Conservations cost-share funds for the Monett R-I School District.

The $2,120 grant allowed the school district to purchase, plant and protect 50 native trees and 100 native shrubs.

The grant also included funds to help pay for herbicides to help control the honeysuckle, evergreen vines and poison ivy.

During her personal spare time and on weekends, Mourglia sprayed herbicide over the area last September to kill the poison ivy and then repeated the process again last month.

On Arbor Day, with the assistance of Mourglia and three Missouri Department of Conservation agents, the trees and shrubs were planted by Monett Elementary second grade students.

The trees and shrubs are the same kind as the ones previously planted at the city's North and South Parks.

For identification purposes, each tree and shrub has been labeled with recycled materials. For protection from wildlife while they are in their young stage, each tree also has a plastic shelter placed around it.

Four tulip trees and four sugar maple trees will also be planted in the outdoor classroom.

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