Notasulga School is located in rural Macon County. K-12 comprehensive schools provide an atmosphere for principal and teachers to follow student progress closely, and the small-town feel allows for a unique sense of community. Students treat guests with extraordinary respect, and a large number of seniors and seventh graders rolled up their sleeves to welcome and work alongside Clifford Hawkins of the Alabama Forestry Commission.
Mr. Hawkins visited our mentoring program (see additional blogs on this site) a while back, and we are fortunate that Guy Trammell of the Tuskegee Youth Safe Haven placed us in touch with him. Clifford is originally from Louisiana, and he wants young people to understand forest ecology, sustainability, and urban forestry. We began with a small group of seniors who discussed the role of trees in our ecosystem, and Clifford reminded us that trees are important for both urban and rural landscapes. And when trees are thoughtfully placed in a landscape, they can beautify an area, as well as provide shade, saving electricity and energy.
Mr. Hawkins brought along with him several hundred seedlings in two species: Crepe Myrtle and Sycamore. He pointed out that although these trees have different shapes and roles in landscapes, they share one important thing in common: they need good soil, water, and sunlight to mature through the seedling stage into a tree to plant. Clifford taught students to cut the root of the tree at a 45 degree angle, which will allow water and nutrients to enter the system. Students mixed two types of soil–garden soil and top soil–in equal portions, so that the dirt will hold an appropriate amount of moisture in the pot to allow for maximum growth.
After a couple of hours of mixing, cutting, and potting, students potted a total of 140 trees! Most of these trees will be used as giveaways by the Alabama Forestry Commission, but ten of the trees will stay at Notasulga. After eight months of tender-loving-care in their pots, Clifford will return to Notasulga school to lead students in a planting ceremony. Our seniors will have moved into college or the world of work, but their contribution will grow into mature, adult trees, and their community will appreciate the results of their effort. We are grateful to Principal Sullen, Ms. Berry-Moore, Mr. Simms, and Ms. Abney for helping to coordinate students for this learning experience.