Cedar Rapids elementary students 'plant hope' with 6 apple trees in city park
The Gazette. Grace King. October 16, 2020.

CEDAR RAPIDS — In the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic and following the derecho that devastated Eastern Iowa, Cedar River Academy at Taylor Elementary “planted hope” Friday in the form of six apple trees.

The trees initially were planned to be planted on Arbor Day — April 24 — behind Cedar River Academy, 720 Seventh Ave. SW, at Reed Park. But with students gone from school then because of the pandemic, the ceremony was delayed.

Now, after the Aug. 10 derecho, the tree planting means even more to students and staff at Cedar River Academy.

“It kind of worked out perfectly because I think replanting now is so much more impactful for everyone involved; because we’re showing we’re committed to rebuilding, and so is the whole city,” said Elizabeth Callahan, Cedar River Academy magnet school coordinator.

Third-graders Aariah Johanns and Kemma Leach gave short welcome speeches before the tree planting began, led in the Pledge of Allegiance and introduced Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart, who read an Arbor Day proclamation. In attendance were a few school officials and some kindergarten students.

“We are planting six new apple trees to replace ones that died,” Kemma said. “We will take very good care of them and make sure they grow. We love trees and they will always be a part of our lives.”

The trees were made possible by a $545 Granting A Better Tomorrow Grant from Trees Forever, a nonprofit in Marion that works to plant and care for trees, prairie and other natural areas.

Geoff Johnson, a field coordinator from Trees Forever, said the apple trees are a “wonderful” project for the school.

“It gives the children a richer environment, and it gives the teachers and everyone else involved a sense that they played a part to get more trees in the ground,” he said.

The apple trees were chosen to replace six apple trees that were removed from the park earlier this year because they had died.

Cedar River Academy, the former Taylor Elementary that was designated a magnet school last year, has a theme of sustainability, community and environment.

“Teaching sustainability of environment includes planting trees and taking ,” Callahan said. “Nurturing the trees can also teach us to nurture ourselves, replant and rebuild.”

Cedar River Academy Principal Andrea Scott said she hopes kindergartners at the ceremony will be the “guardians of these apple trees.”

“They will get to see the trees grow as they grow, and their care is going to have a healing impact,” Scott said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for Cedar Rapids that we’re planting something after all this devastation. We try to take kids to nature and bring nature to kids. This is a great way to do that.”

City Arborist Todd Fagan did the planting.

He said the orchard is a great teaching opportunity for students about how to plant a tree properly and where food comes from.

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