STIHL Tour des Trees stops at Saint Stephen's for science lesson, tree planting

Saint Stephens students 'give trees a chance'

On Monday, students at Saint Stephen's learned lessons about trees during the 2015 STIHL Tour des Trees stop in Bradenton.
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On Monday, students at Saint Stephen's learned lessons about trees during the 2015 STIHL Tour des Trees stop in Bradenton.

BRADENTON -- Trees are essentially giant scrubbers -- taking in the bad stuff in the air and spitting out "free oxygen" -- and they need to be protected and respected, Professor Elwood Pricklethorn told a captive audience of second and third grade students at Saint Stephen's Episcopal School.

"Trees are made of the air that's all around us," said Professor Pricklethorn, portrayed by Warren Hoselton. "Trees are their own natural resources."

The kid-friendly science demonstration was part of the 2015 STIHL Tour des Trees, North America's largest fund-raiser for tree research. The 85 cyclists will travel more than 800 miles through Florida and made multiple stops in Manatee County on Monday. In addition to stopping at Saint Stephen's, the cyclists stopped at Harvest Field Community Church in Parrish, the DeSoto National Memorial in Bradenton and Lido Beach in Sarasota.

Pricklethorn held the students to two different oaths on Monday.

First, they promised to "plant the right tree in the right place."

And that takes research, Pricklethorn said. You wouldn't want to plant a tree that will grow 100 feet high under a 300 foot bridge. And you wouldn't want to plant a tree that'll grow 20 feet wide between houses that are only 10 feet apart. As an arborist, this is part of what Pricklethorn studies, he told the students.

"It's like CSI investigations," he said.

With the help of some students, who he dressed up in crazy hats and outfits, Pricklethorn took the young students through how trees functions, ending with "free oxygen" for everyone in the world to use.

"Trees make us feel good, both mentally and physically," Pricklethorn said.

For second grader Jackson McLeod, who portrayed the tree in Pricklethorn's demonstration, learning about all the different purposes trees serve was the best part about Monday.

"They give you oxygen. They give us paper, syrup," he said.

After the demonstration, the students took part in a tree dedication ceremony, putting the second oath they took to use. They promised to "give trees a chance" and helped plant a new tree on campus, near the pre-kindergarten playground area.

Giulia Lorenzoni and Nicholas Gilham, both third-grade students, were chosen to help plant the tree, and ceremoniously helped throw the first shovels of dirt onto the new tree.

It was important to plant the tree because it "helps give us air," Lorenzoni said.

"And then our environment grows more," Gilham said.

Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter@MeghinDelaney.