Students help create

A group of children with Bradford Area Christian Academy dig a hole Monday for one of the dozen white spruce trees they planted in a field owned by the Bradford Ecumenical Home. The trees are expected to provide a natural windbreak for the nursing facility.

During pre-pandemic years, students from Bradford Area Christian Academy would visit Bradford Ecumenical Home residents regularly at the St. Francis Drive facility.

On Monday, students from the academy entertained some of the residents at a distance when they planted approximately one dozen 10-inch white spruce seedlings in a small field next to and owned by the nursing facility. The evergreen trees were set up in a row to serve as windbreakers for gusts of wind that regularly blow across the Ecumenical Home campus.

Michele Panek, principal at the Christian Academy, said the school received the trees from the Seedlings for School Program, a partnership program of the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Howard Nursery and the Wildlife for Everyone Foundation.

“They just got them to us last Wednesday, so that’s why we needed to get in here” and plant them, Panek said. Participating in the tree planting session were 30 preschool through eighth- grade students. Panek said the students, who have attended in-person classes at the Christian Academy all school year, were anxious to get out and plant the trees.

Students who commented on their planting adventure included Naomi Christiansen.

“This gives us a break from doing math,” she said while taking a break in her work.

Another student, Tyler Rolfe, said he also enjoyed the session.

“I like getting a break from learning,” Tyler said, while admitting the project might help him with future landscaping.

Becky Greenberg, activities director at the Ecumenical Home, said several of the residents who wanted to watch the planting session sat at a distance outside to observe. As the children planted the trees, gusts of wind could be felt blowing up through the field on St. Francis Drive.

“We’re thinking the trees will be a nice windbreak for us when they’re grown,” Greenberg commented. “The maintenance guys have researched the trees and said that’s one of the things (white spruce) are intended for, which is windbreakers.”

Greenberg said the trees are hoped to be a plus for the nursing facility, as wind is one of the natural elements that bother the older residents.

She noted the nursing facility had “a great relationship with the Christian Academy, prior to the pandemic — they would come and visit us at Christmastime. A couple of times through the year, they would come and sing for us, visit or send cards.

“They’re wonderful, they’re a faith-based school and that really ties into our faith-based home,” Greenberg remarked. “And anytime we can get a group of kids to come and brighten our day” we do it.

Erick Wells, head of maintenance at the Ecumenical Home, said his research revealed the trees can grow up to 60 feet high and are considered one of the best for providing a shield against the wind. Research also shows that states such as Iowa use the white spruce as windbreaks along the highways.

Wells said the students had to dig holes 4 to 5 inches in depth and he would provide cages around the fast-growing seedlings.

Ecumencial Home residents who watched the young planters included Nancy Copeland, who said she enjoyed seeing the children.

“I think it’s beautiful, and they’re so excited,” Copeland said of the children. “This is my first time (to watch) and I think it’s great.”

(Contact reporter Kate Day Sager at Follow her on Twitter, @OTHKate)

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