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Academy District 20 students at Village Middle School (VMS) will be able to look back in just a few years and visibly see the difference they’ve made after completing a year-long project designed to re-plant trees in the Black Forest burn scar.

A team of 15 VMS students partnered throughout the year on one of two green projects in the school, leading students to divvy up roles, responsibilities and ultimately craft a plan to take action on the goal of helping reforest the area near D20’s School in the Woods (SITW). 

According to VMS staff, including teacher Natalie Ruecker and Academic Support Teacher Jody Cameron, who supported students through the project, students masterfully orchestrated fundraising efforts, branded the project and partnered with local nurseries and the Woodland Park Field Office of the Colorado State Forest Service to turn an idea on paper into digging shovels into the ground.

On Thursday, May 16, students gathered with their teachers and Forest Service partners to dig holes and plant 20 saplings, procured through a variety of efforts, including fundraising and securing donations from partners like Rick’s Garden Shop. Forest Service partners advised on what species of saplings to plant, as well as offered guidance throughout the planting process. 

“This has been a year-long process, starting in the first quarter. Students determined they wanted to do something to impact our local community, and they have rallied behind this idea,” said Ruecker, “We just hope the kids can spread this idea and all that they have learned through this process so that it’s not just an impact right now, but impacts our community well into the future.” 

Students worked in pairs to dig holes, plant saplings at an appropriate depth and with the help of Forest Service experts, build small shelters to protect the saplings from animals who might see the future trees as a tasty snack. 

“This is a great example of Village Middle School students exploring their passions and finding something they love, and taking a big idea and executing on all the little steps to make it happen. We’re just so proud at VMS that our students get to choose between 15 different exploratory courses and have the freedom to try new things, and now these students are even talking about coming back to do this year after year,” said Cameron. 

According to representatives from the Forest Service, the burn scar near SITW is planted enough that they can focus on other nearby burn scars in future planting efforts.