New Tree on Campus

student led, cross-curricular learning

When physics teacher Jim Panzer asked juniors in his Environmental Physics class what they wanted to lean into for the last month of the school year, they said they wanted to
do something for the environment instead of feeling angry, worried and disillusioned about the climate crisis.

“They wanted to plant a tree,” said Panzer.

Juniors Sophia Hinkley, Carly Smith, Maeve Sullivan, Maddie Varriale, Quinn Washburn and Mariel Weitsman set on a cross-curricular self-guided course of action, tapping many of the resources available to them at John Jay High School.

Turning eco-anxiety into climate action

On June 6, the class hosted an all-school tree planting of a 7-foot-tall Eastern Redbud Tree that blooms in John Jay purple!

That’s not the only result.

The juniors gained empowerment and a sense of hope.

“Taking small, local and impactful action is a very healthy way to combat climate anxiety,” said School Counselor Carlyn Bochicchio, who attended the tree planting.

Exploring the Environmental Physics of trees

With Panzer, the class studied how much carbon dioxide trees (CO2) can sequester. When they set on this course of action, they thought that maybe it was possible to plant trees as THE climate solution. What the students discovered was that while it was impossible to plant enough trees to reduce CO2 levels to net zero—we must also reduce the CO2 we emit—they learned that in one year, a mature live tree can absorb more than 48 pounds of CO2.

Tapping English teachers for input

It was the end of the school year; there was no budget line for a tree.

The students gained guidance from English language arts teachers Jill Hirshfeld, Vicky Weiss and others on writing a persuasive letter to a local nursery asking for the donation of a tree.

Thank you, Gossett Brothers Nursery for the generous donation!

Introducing Environmentally-Themed All School Summer Reads

Junior Madison Varriale spoke at the event, inspiring students and staff and using the moment to introduce the all-school environmentally themed summer reads: “The Story of More” by Hope Jahren and “The Overstory” by Richard Powers. The students invited everyone to place a shovel full of soil back into the hole once the tree was put in place.

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago,” said Panzer, in his remarks at the ceremony. “The second best time is at John Jay High School’s Annual Tree Planting Ceremony.”