Students from the Brooklyn Academy of Science and the Environment (BASE) planted trees on the grounds of NYC Department of Education’s Prospect Heights High School in Brooklyn.

Thank you to Arbor Day Project Coordinator Nancy Wolf for providing this account and to Elizabeth Otte/BBG for providing photos.  

Schools in New York City resumed the tradition of planting trees on Arbor Day in 2021, after the Covid pandemic caused postponement of the event in 2020. Eighteen public schools and one public college planted 144 trees from the John Bowne High School Grow-out Nursery in Flushing, Queens. Species planted included arborvitae, blue spruce, Kentucky coffee tree, red maple, river birch, silky dogwood, white pine, white oak, and yellow poplar.

Arbor Day’s re-emergence added to the excitement of the “re-opening” of the City in many ways, and Arbor Day Coordinator Nancy Wolf was pleased that a large number of teachers who had ordered trees in 2020 were able to receive them this year.

Green Team students learn how to properly prepare the planting hole for a containerized blue spruce.

One white pine and one blue spruce were planted at the NYC Department of Education’s Prospect Heights High School in Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Academy of Science and the Environment (BASE), one of four high schools in the building, is in partnership with the nearby Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG). Students at BASE do field studies at BBG and in Prospect Park that focus on urban ecology and native plant communities, and they also enjoy other outings.

Preparing the planting hole for a container-grown white pine.

BBG assists BASE students in obtaining internships where they build skills in horticulture and science; the partnership with BBG offers family events at the Garden. In addition, the BASE Green Team students help to promote other environmental aspects at the school, such as recycling and composting.

Making sure to plant at the proper height — top of root ball level to the surrounding soil.

The Grow-out Nursery at John Bowne High School was first created as part of the National Tree Trust program from the early 1990s, in which small seedlings were donated by large forest products companies, with financial support from the federal budget. The seedlings were potted into 3-gallon containers and “bumped up” after two years to be available in 5-gallon pots for delivery by the NYC Parks Department to schools for Arbor Day. Over the years, trees were given to other entities who planted in community gardens and public parks across the city. More recently, trees have been donated to cemeteries such as Evergreen at the Queens/Brooklyn border, where they were added to Evergreen’s noteworthy arboretum.

White pine planted and ready for mulch.

When the National Tree Trust program ended, Bowne was fortunate to establish a long-standing partnership with the Bartlett Tree Expert Company, which has funded the purchase of new trees and the administration of the project each year. Trees have been regularly cared for by students and teachers at Bowne as part of the school’s agricultural curriculum; this Grow-out Nursery may be the only surviving one in the country from the original program. 🌳