I shook off the rain that spit down in a constant drizzle as I entered Philip Pocock Catholic Secondary School. It was a typical “Vancouver” day; except I was in Mississauga, Ontario, about to meet with Joe Zammit, Vice Principal of Philip Pocock CSS. Perfect day for a talk about water, Joe joked, when he saw me.
The school and family of Mississauga schools was celebrating Earth Day by participating in a tree planting ceremony and I was giving a talk to the students first. Students representing eco-teams from eighteen schools attended the Eco Conference.
I first spoke to the Pocock students about the wondrous properties of water and its importance on the planet. You can find more about a similar talk—with engaging videos—on water’s amazing properties and some of its weird creatures.
We then joined the Grade 1 to Grade 12 students assembling in the Pocock gym. There, Mississauga’s poet laureate, Wali Shah, engaged the students on leadership with stories from his own life as a student. Zammit then encouraged the 130 students to brave the rain to plant trees:
I grew up understanding that it was important to be a community leader. To do something for our community. To give back instead of always taking. I also understand that while it may be difficult to gain world-wide attention and superstar status—I could still make a difference by thinking globally by acting locally. In other words, you can have a great impact in your community, your city and your world by planting a tree. It provides oxygen for you and the planet, and it helps you to create instead of destroy.
Today by planting a tree you give life.
You also gain the opportunity to see the fruits of your labour. Today you plant a tree but tomorrow, 5 years from now, 10 years from now, many many many years from now you may come back to this property. You may even walk here with your own children. On that special day in the future, you will be able to find the tree you planted and realize the life you gave today. You will have on this earth a living legacy.
Students were given a short lesson in tree planting then the older students helped the younger ones as all hands pulled together to plant in the rain.
150 trees were planted in 1 hour.
Each child walked back into the school, wet and full of mud but absolutely glowing with excitement. They were euphoric.
“They understood the importance of the task and their role in the environmental movement,” said Zammit. “Even more memorable because of the weather conditions. After all what is an Earth Day without a little earth (mud and rain) all thrown in for good measure.”
The school has planted some 470 trees with the assistance of the City of Mississauga one million tree campaign.
Nina Munteanu is an ecologist, limnologist and internationally published author of award-nominated speculative novels, short stories and non-fiction. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for the latest on her books.