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BSU Students Get Their Hands Dirty to Help the Environment

5/4/2022 | David Thompson

Bowie State University

Sometimes you have to get your hands dirty — literally and figuratively — in order to learn important lessons. Some Bowie State University students learned this when they participated in the university’s Earth Week activities late last month.

BSU’s Arbor Day Tree Planting moved the university closer to becoming a member of the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree Campus Higher Education program to receive national recognition for its commitment to trees as a solution to global challenges, including climate change.

Tree Campus Higher Education has been recognizing green colleges and universities since 2008. There are 392 recognized Tree Campuses to date. BSU will be among the early adopters within the Maryland HBCU community, along with Morgan State and UMES, who also plan to apply for membership.

BSU and its partners at the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay hosted the Arbor Day Tree Planting as part of the Peace Park revitalization on campus. The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay is a nonprofit that works throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed to improve lands and waters.

More than 35 volunteers planted six native trees that will provide important air and water quality benefits, sequester carbon (a process that can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere), and serve as a habitat for wildlife and pollinators. The trees were planted on the Peace Plot, a space designed by the BSU Student Government Association in 2007 in memory of a student’s tragic death on campus.

Others, including Maryland gubernatorial candidate John King, were on hand to assist in and celebrate the tree planting and the university’s application to become a Tree Campus; campaign members were among the volunteers.

“This year Arbor Day celebrated its 150th anniversary and the Maryland Forest Service wanted Bowie State as well as the other Historically Black Colleges and Universities in Maryland to celebrate the wonderful day by planting a tree,” said Marian Honeczy, supervisor of Urban & Community Forestry for the Maryland Forest Service, Department of Natural Resources, who attended the event.

”Bowie State beat the others by planting six trees on campus,” said Honeczy. She noted that trees are an extremely important and cheap solution for multiple concerns. “Trees create shade and reduce heat island effect, can clean the air and reduce asthma rates, and help with climate change. All it takes is for everyone to plant one tree.”

Aside from its environmental benefits, the tree planting was also a service learning opportunity for students who helped green and beautify their campus.

”This tree planting was part of a multi-year partnership between the Alliance and BSU that is focused on giving students opportunities for hands-on and meaningful experiences that build connections between themselves and their local environment,” said Jenny McGarvey, Alliance Capacity Building Initiative director. She added the Alliance hopes actions such as this “inspire BSU students to become the next generation of stewards advocating for trees and clean water within their communities, and encourage them to pursue environmental careers.”

BSU’s Sustainability & Energy Coordinator Jabari S. Walker concurs about the event’s benefits.

“Sometimes you learn more about environmental sustainability being hands-on outside than you do in the classroom,” he said.

“This was a learning experience where our students and volunteers got a chance to learn about the proper digging and tree planting process as well as the types of trees we were planting. Most of our students had never planted trees before,” said Walker. “It was also a welcome break from the classroom and virtual environment to get out, get your hands a little dirty, enjoy nature, enjoy each other and benefit the surrounding natural environment.”

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