Christmas tree project teaches many valuable lessons

December 12, 2015

Spitler Christmas trees -3By Allison Scarbrough. OCP Editor.

HART — Fourth grade students at Spitler Elementary School are learning many important lessons through a unique Christmas tree tracking project.

Spitler Christmas trees-4The students visited Slocum Brothers Tree Farm, where they tagged about 100 Christmas trees with a postcard that asks the tree owner to correspond with the students.

So far, the students have heard from folks all over the country, and they are getting not only a valuable lesson in geography, but also in natural resources, technology and economics. The project ties in well in the fourth-grade social studies curriculum, said teacher Sara Nordlund.

The post card asks the tree owner to write back on the card and send it in the U.S. mail or to send an email. 

They are also invited to post a response and/or photo on the the Lil’ Pirates Christmas Tree Project Facebook Page.

The kids keep track of the responses with their Chromebooks, and they also have a display case set up in the hallway with a map of the responders’ locations.

“You get to learn about all the places, and it’s so cool,” said student Lynessa Fielder.

“It’s interesting to see how far people came from to get the trees,” said August Gerardi.

“We’re learning a lot more about other states,” said Sean Wood.

“I’m really hoping one of them gets my tree,” said Allysen Hopkins.

An email message was received in Ann Herrygers’ classroom Friday, Dec. 11, from a mother of a fourth grader in Spitler Christmas trees-5Virginia:

“We were excited when we found your note since our son, Nikolai, is also a fourth grader.” Nikolai and his classmates “are studying Virginia’s history and its resources, and they have a field trip to Jamestown, Virginia, planned for the spring. Jamestown is the first permanent English settlement of the Americas and was founded in 1607!”

“We were also excited to find that our local VFW was once again selling trees from Michigan, since I am a native Yooper and was born and raised in the tiny town of L’Anse, Michigan.”

“We think your project is a great way to connect communities, and we hope that you get many responses.”

Included with the email was a photo of Nikolai and his dog, Ginger, in front of the decorated tree that came all the way from Hart.

The project is a combined effort of all the fourth-grade teachers, Nordland said, including herself, Herrygers, Amanda Balkema and Tracey Laaksonen. It began in 2001; took a brief hiatus; and is now back in full swing.  

Spitler Christmas treesOne of the previous years of the project, a student received a letter from an innkeeper in Florida, who wrote to the students, stating that he put their tree in a very special guest room for former First Lady Laura Bush.

The highest amount of responses received was nearly 40 percent, Nordlund said.

“We’ll see how many we get back,” she said. “It’s like Christmas for everybody.”

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