Ad’k Educational Center students plant trees for Arbor Day

From left, Dalton LaFountain, Hayden Ormsby, Jason Branchaud and Benjamin Dupree plant red pine seedlings as part of Tuesday’s Arbor Day event at the Adirondack Educational Center in Saranac Lake. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

SARANAC LAKE — The Adirondack Educational Center offers lessons that are different from most high school curricula, and those differences were in plain sight on Tuesday as students and members of the public planted dozens of trees around the 30-acre campus.

In honor of Arbor Day, the BOCES’ school’s natural resources and culinary arts programs hosted an event at the school to plant trees and pollinator gardens, and in return for some help digging holes, members of the public were given a sapling to take home.

“It’s a really amazing opportunity,” said Jess Vanzile, a senior from Saranac Lake. “I had never really expected, going into this program, being able to do something like this. So to be able to plant things that you can definitely come back and see in a few years is really amazing. And I’m super-excited to come back and see how everything turns out.”

The event was put on by students and teachers at the school, as well as the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Franklin County Soil and Water District. Kristin Ballou, the district forester, said the students at AEC were learning valuable skills.

“We’ve had a really good day; the weather hasn’t been as bad as we thought,” Ballou said. “They (the students) have been really good, and I think they’ve been liking the hands-on experience. They’ve learned about planting trees, but they haven’t had the opportunity to do something to this extent.”

Kristin Ballou, kneeling, shows a group how to plant trees at the Adirondack Educational Center’s Arbor Day event on Tuesday. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

Christian Wissler teaches natural resources at the school, and said the skills that go into designing a garden or establishing an apple orchard will help his students both at work and in life.

“My goal is to have students be able to apply the skills we learn in class and be able to share it with the public,” he said. “And to be able to build on their legacy projects — to have those things here so they can come back and discuss the projects they did.”

Wissler’s program does a number of things that should last long after the current crop of students graduates, including building lean-tos, creating an apple orchard and planting gardens that culinary arts students at the school can utilize. Students in his program have also built trails at Dewey Mountain and Mount Pisgah in Saranac Lake.

“There are multiple ways (that the Arbor Day event will help students),” he said. “Looking at a long-term goal, which can apply to anything in life, and being able to break it down into smaller pieces and be able to put it together. It’s not just planting a tree, it’s ‘Why is that tree going there?'”

Adirondack Educational Center offers hands-on learning for area seniors and juniors in not only culinary arts and natural resources, but also cosmetology, automotive technology, building trades and health care.

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