Do you remember where you planted your Grade 1 tree?
If you grew up and went to elementary school in Alberta over the last 60-plus years, you would have been given a tree seedling to plant in Grade 1. The Alberta government program as seen nearly 70,000 lodgepole pine and white spruce trees handed out to Grade 1 students over the the years during Alberta Forest Week.
Now, a local educator and a Grade 8 student have paired up to try to map these trees.
“I’ve been interested in heritage trees for a while,” said educator and tree enthusiast Dustin Bajer.
“There’s been some efforts in the past and so lists have been out there but absent from those lists are a lot of our native spruce trees.
“I ran into Josh about six months ago and he was also interested in spruce trees and so we started talking about the fact that these trees are missing and we realized that actually, many of us have this relationship, have this connection to our Grade 1 spruce trees.”
Grade 8 student Joshua Kirsch’s interest in heritage trees was sparked just over two years ago, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when his school library was handing out books and he received one titled Heritage Trees of Alberta.
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“This book talked about hundreds of trees in Alberta that were old, big, unique, you name it. If it was special, it was in that book. So that book really sparked my interest and I decided to create my own map to map other heritage trees in Edmonton,” Kirsch said.
The pair then teamed up and created the Alberta Grade 1 Tree Register to see how many Grade 1 trees they could locate, map and most importantly, share the stories they represent.
“We thought it would be an interesting project to track them down and see how many of them we could find and see if we could collect some of the stories behind them,” Bajer said.
So far, more than 300 trees have been mapped. Perhaps the most interesting story the pair has come across so far is about a tree seedling that was planted all the way overseas in Europe.
“In Grade 1, this student received his spruce tree. And that summer they were visiting their grandma who lived in Portugal. So took his spruce tree all the way across the ocean and planted it at his grandma’s house in Portugal,” Kirsch said.
“So that’s a really cool story.”
Albertans who remember where they planted their trees are encouraged to submit their stories to the pair’s online tree inventory.