Trees planted at Spotswood Elementary as part of project to offset heat islands

Trevor Brooks and participants will plant 100 trees at Spotswood Elementary.
Published: Oct. 8, 2022 at 6:51 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Spotswood Elementary School held its Fall Festival on Saturday. During the event, kids got to help plant trees as part of an environmental project.

The school is partnering with Bridgewater College and Harrisonburg Public Works to plant 100 trees outside the school.

The trees were purchased with a grant from the Virginia Foundation of Independent Colleges to plant 100 trees around the city.

It’s in response to research from Trevor Brooks, a Bridgewater student who mapped heat islands around Harrisonburg in the summer of 2021. Now Brooks and his partners are looking to counteract the effect of heat islands by planting trees around the city and Spotswood Elementary was the perfect place to start.

“Trees need space to grow and Spotswood has a lot of area for that and children are actually one of the groups that are most affected by the urban heat island effect because they’re outside all the time and they’re growing so they’re more susceptible to heat stress and heat-related illness,” said Trevor Brooks.

Brooks and staff from Harrisonburg Public Works showed children at the festival how to plant trees and also educated them on their purpose.

“We’re teaching them how to plant the trees, so they’re going to help us put them in the holes and cover the holes and then we’re going to teach them how to put water bags on which helps keep the trees alive as they’re growing,” he said. “We’re trying to educate them on the urban heat island effect and sustainability in their own community.”

26 trees were planted on Saturday. The rest will be planted later in the month.

Brooks also hopes to address heat islands in other areas around the city. He’s partnering with Climate Action Alliance of the Valley for a similar project in Harrisonburg’s Northeast neighborhood.

“Really trying to get community engagement and some green infrastructure into those neighborhoods as well to try to help them because in my original research that was one of the neighborhoods most affected by the heat island effect,” he said.

Brooks also cited the Walmart parking lot as one of Harrisonburg’s largest heat islands and said he hopes to get some greenery planted there. He said he is grateful for the support of the Harrisonburg Public Works Department, the school, and the larger community.

“This stuff doesn’t come together without a supportive community and the Harrisonburg community has been really engaging in all this and I feel really lucky to work in such an amazing community,” he said.