VENTURA COUNTY STAR
Students had big smiles and dirty hands Friday as they dug their fingers into the soil to plant trees at Will Rogers Elementary School in Ventura.
The students were guided by the visiting members of Common Vision, who are on the group's Fruit Tree Tour. Common Vision members arrived in a vegetable-oil powered bus and first performed a musical skit about carbon footprints, how to take care of the Earth by growing food and the benefits of composting. Common Vision is a group that works with schools to educate and inspire environmental action through performance and hands-on activity.
Will Rogers Elementary School invited Common Vision for two reasons. Teachers and parents wanted to improve the view from the school, which backs up to a commercial parking lot, and give the students hands-on planting experience, said Kris Guzman, the first-grade teacher who facilitates the after-school garden club and spearheaded the event.
"My goal is that as the children are invested in planting these trees, they get to watch them grow every day as they play outside," Guzman said. "And as they bear fruit, the kids can help harvest them."
During the course of the day, the students planted 20 fruit trees, including apple, fig, lemon and peach trees.
Enrique Roman, 10, said he looked forward to eating the fruit.
"Also, I'm learning how to plant the tree and how to be careful with the shovel because I could cut my finger off," he said.
Leo Buc, project director of Common Vision, was leading a group planting a white pomegranate tree.
"I love working with the kids," he said. "It's incredible to watch them get the concept that fruit is coming off the tree."
"I think this is pretty cool," said 8-year old Jasey Cortez. "It's cool because we get to use our hands, and we'll get to see the tree grow."
Ten-year-old Joban Barrera said, "This is so much fun. We get to mix dirt and do lots of work. I'm learning a lot and we're going to get to eat the fruit, too."
"I'm learning it's important to grow food," said 9-year old Breanna Villaneda.
Megan Watson, project director and founding member of Common Vision, which began eight years ago, said the idea for the group came while planting fruit trees with some students in Los Angeles.
"We realized how every year you plant a vegetable garden, but with a fruit tree, it can last 100 years. We kept doing it and spread it to a program that now reaches about 40 schools a year and 10,000 kids across the state," said Watson, explaining that the disease-resistant trees will produce fruit during the school year, but not during the summer. The trees are smaller so the students can harvest them without ladders, Watson said.
"We've been hoping to have Common Vision here for two years," said Patricia Short, principal of Will Rogers Elementary School. "We are so thrilled to have them here so they can teach the children how to take care of the trees."