Folks from every corner of Indiana University Northwest, and the region, gathered at the Community Garden on Thursday, April 25 for a lesson in tree planting.
Members of the Student Conservation Association, with help from the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission’s CommuniTree organization, demonstrated the proper techniques before handing out shovels and wheelbarrows. To add a personal touch, nature-inspired poems contributed by students of Highland High School were read aloud and buried among the roots of each tree. And students joined Corey Hagelberg, adjunct faculty member in Fine Arts, to create sidewalk mud stencils to further commemorate the importance of nature.
Throughout the day, teams of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community volunteers dispersed to various campus locations to begin digging. Just in time for Arbor Day, celebrated the next day, 77 new trees had joined the campus landscape.
Donated by the U.S. Forest Service, the trees arrived thanks to an effort by Sustain IU, whose mission is to identify and promote sustainable solutions that reduce environmental impacts while supporting an equitable and prosperous Indiana University, now and into the future.
Sustain IU is striving to help all IU campuses achieve Tree Campus USA status. This is a program that recognizes college and university campuses that effectively manage their campus trees, connect with the community beyond its borders to support urban forests, and engage students in service-learning opportunities focused on forestry efforts.
Professor of Geosciences Erin Argyilan worked with SustainIU to create the campus- and community-wide planting event to celebrate Arbor Day. She plans to continue the tradition.
“I was thrilled when SustainIU challenged our campus to hold this event and start on the path to achieving Tree Campus USA status,” she said. “The event exploded into a campus-wide collaboration fueled by enthusiasm from students, faculty, staff, and the administration. We actually had more volunteers than trees so we hope people will continue to participate in the CommuniTree planting events that are taking place throughout Northwest Indiana this summer.”
Argyilan credited the campus’s Physical Plant and Facilities Services for doing the heavy lifting on the project, identifying sites for each tree and making the physical work of getting the trees in the ground possible.
Mary Hackett from the Office of the Dean in the College of Arts and Sciences coordinated participation by campus and community organizations to celebrate Earth Day.
“We were pleased to have so many volunteers who not only pitched in on the planting, but provided information about other sustainability initiatives in the region,” Hackett said. “Wild Ones – Gibson Woods Chapter, Homewood Disposal Services, and our own Facilities Services staffed tables during the lunch hour to provide information on gardening with native species and recycling at home and on campus.”
Other partners in the initiative included Ivy Tech Community College and the City of Gary, as well as IU Northwest offices of Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs, the College of Arts and Sciences, Facilities and Operations, the Brother2Brother student organization, the Center for Urban and Regional Excellence, the IU Alumni Association and the Office of the Chancellor.