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Barrie school takes learning outside for virtual tree-planting (4 photos)

'(My husband) really loves trees and he shows them it’s OK to be a big nerd about trees,' says Jessica Corner of Northshore Tree Experts

Trees aren’t just great for climbing, building forts or relaxing under to read your favourite book. They also help reduce pollution and improve air quality. 

That’s one of the reasons Johnny and Jessica Corner of Northshore Tree Experts created the Free Tree Project, which offers clients a free tree after the removal of a tree of a certain size.

“Anyone that declined, their tree was donated to be planted elsewhere and we ended up doing a planting at a local school,” Jessica told BarrieToday.

After launching the Free Tree Project last year, she says they realized the biggest way to impact the future for Simcoe County was by teaching the next generation.

“At our house, our kids get to benefit from having a dad who loves to teach them about trees, to get them outside, to climb with them, and show them the beauty of creation, but not all kids have that," Jessica added. 

That's why this year they decided to focus specifically on school plantings and have partnered with Johnny’s old childhood stomping grounds, Codrington Public School, in the city's east end.

“It's an opportunity to show kids that trees are fascinating. And yes, sure, there's a bunch of cool guys with chainsaws who love to climb them and cut them down, but they also actually love trees, too,” she said. “I constantly refer to my husband as a 'tree nerd' and if that enthusiasm can rub off on the next generation, how great would that be?” 

Aside from Codrington school being his old alma mater, Corner said it was also selected for the fact that, unlike many local schools, due to its age it doesn’t currently have a tree-planting program. And they wanted to change that.

The planting is scheduled to take place May 28, said principal Heather Rocca

“John reached out to me to explain his tree-planting program and how he wants to give back to the environment and the community where he lives," Rocca told BarrieToday. "He is a very selfless and generous person who also happens to be an alumni of Codrington P.S.

"Last year, he donated trees to Oakley Park P.S. and this year he chose us,” she added.

Rocca and Corner did a walk about the property and chose the location and types of trees to plant.

“We are the lucky recipients of five mature trees," the principal noted. 

With students currently doing school online, Rocca says they hope to stream the tree planting to the classes who will be adopting the tree so they can understand the process, ask questions and take some ownership of the tree for their school. 

“Each tree will be assigned to a classroom or two in order to help with the watering and the maintenance of the trees until they have fully taken in the soil and are thriving,” she said.

“John is an outstanding businessman and committed to the growth and development of our students and the community he works and lives in," Rocca added. "We are really looking forward to working with him and his team.”

Replanting trees and making living “green” fun is important to ensuring the health of the community, and the buy-in of the next generation to take care of the environment and their community, acknowledged Jessica.

“If we aren’t replanting, then before long the city is going to look really ugly. We talk about green programs and our responsibility to the environment, but sometimes they don't know how much fun it is,” she said. “It’s fun to plant trees, it’s fun to climb trees and it’s nice to have them around.

"For the younger kids, it shows them a really cool guy that gets to walk around with a chain saw and they love that. At the same time, he really loves trees and he shows them it’s OK to be a big nerd about trees.”

The hope to do similar tree plantings twice a year and rotate among schools in Simcoe County.

About the Author: Nikki Cole

Nikki Cole has been a community issues reporter for BarrieToday since February, 2021
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