Not your typical field trip: 500 students win a chance to replant the Angeles National Forest

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Students from 10 Los Angeles area middle and high schools learned this week that they were winners of sponsored field trips to the Angeles National Forest to help restore fire-damaged areas of one of Los Angeles County’s largest preserved open space.

The Facebook-based contest TreeByTree was a collaboration between TreePeople and Edison International. On a weekly basis, students from 17 schools posted photos of sustainability-minded projects they spearheaded, from recycling programs to tree plantings to converting a vintage VW Bug to electric. Members of the Facebook community voted daily on their favorite projects to decide the 10 field trip winners: Norwalk High School, Franklin Classical Middle School, Hughes Middle School, Hawthorne Middle School, San Gabriel Christian School, Eleanor Roosevelt High School, Bell Gardens High School, Santa Monica High School, Jefferson Leadership Academies, and John F. Kennedy Middle College High School.

In March and April, each school will bring a busload of 50 students  to assist TreePeople-led volunteer restoration efforts in areas of the Angeles ravaged by the 2009 Station Fire. Along with the staff of Forest Aid: Angeles and Southern California Edison employees who trained as volunteer leaders, these young environmentalists will learn the proper way to plant new trees where they are most needed, and how best to care for them. Depending on the terrain, each school group will plant anywhere from 500 to 1,000 native Jeffrey and Coulter pine seedlings during their visit.

TreeByTree was launched to inspire and engage middle and high school students while simultaneously encouraging families in Southern California Edison’s (SCE) service territory to support the cause by switching to paperless billing. Over the five weeks of the campaign, SCE secured nearly 1,500 customer commitments to give up paper statements.

The urban students in the contest don’t get everyday opportunities to experience natural, open space. But they are aware of its importance—and the importance of their stewardship. One high schooler said, “It devastates me just knowing how our world could get just 10 to 20 years from now if we don’t make a difference.”

You don’t have to be a TreeByTree winner to make a difference in the Angeles National Forest. Join TreePeople’s volunteer efforts throughout the year by helping us plant new trees, maintain habitat, and even by training to be a volunteer leader.

Carolyn Gray Anderson is an editor, writer, and nonprofit communications professional in Los Angeles. She volunteers regularly with Good Karma Gardens and at the Learning Garden at Venice High School, enjoying many a meal straight from the earth. She loves TreePeople almost as much as she loves trees.