Students from Sylvia Mendez Elementary School planted a Miyawaki forest at the Berkeley Technology Academy, the fourth of its kind within the Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD.
Miyawaki forests such as the ones planted on BUSD campuses help to increase biodiversity, reduce the impact of air pollution and lower temperatures in surrounding areas, according to BUSD sustainability coordinator Sofia Peltz. Peltz noted that a total of 4,110 native plants have been sown since the initiative began.
“Students at BUSD are becoming citizen scientists by observing and documenting plant growth and the diversity of fauna that the Miyawaki forest supports,” Peltz said in an email. “By encouraging our students to nurture and develop a vibrant ecosystem, we are empowering them to learn from the natural world and better understand their place in it.”
The Miyawaki forest method focuses on planting fast-growing and carbon-sequestering plants. In addition, these forests are beneficial to the district because they stop needing to be watered after three years and therefore decrease water consumption by replacing ornamental lawns.
Students like Alondra Castro-Davila, a student at Sylvia Mendez Elementary School, who said she planted three trees and two flowers as part of the project, are able to examine the forests and learn hands on by recording plant growth and diversity. Peltz noted that students taking part in these projects can witness the results of their efforts in just one year.
Asucena Davila, Alondra’s mother, said she is happy with this curriculum because it educates students on climate change at a young age.
“I think it’s great that they’re talking about this in schools,” Davila said. “Not just learning about the problem, but also how can you take action, how can you make a difference?”
Castro-Davila became involved with the project when her science teacher, Neelam Patil, showed students a video and asked for volunteers to give a speech. The speech was about plants being like “family members” and about them joining the school ecosystem, Castro-Davila added.
Students have a hand in the planting process from start to finish. Castro-Davila described adding liquid to plants, getting rid of air bubbles, “tickling” the bottom of the plants to spread their roots and adding dirt to pack the plants into the soil. Castro-Davila noted that she learned about how planting Miyawaki forests will bring fresh air to the city.
“This world right now (is) going through a big struggle, (we) haven’t been taking care of it very well,” Castro-Davila said. “I feel like this is a good thing. We can connect with the plants, we get to spend time with each other planting.”