The tree belongs to them and they to the tree

Each year at the Opening School Mass of St Joseph’s Primary School, Merriwa, we pray for:

God’s blessing upon us all, that like a young tree, we will grow, not just through the learning and wisdom we receive, but especially through the love, care and support we give to one another in our community at St Joseph’s School and as part of St Anne’s Parish.

After Mass, one ornamental tree is planted by the new Kinders, new teachers and any student new to the school during the preceding year. Each year the avenue of trees grows larger.

This has become a much-loved tradition, wherein the cohort that planted the tree each year takes responsibility for the tree and cares for it. Students share the duties such as watering, mulching, providing guards and fertilising. The tree belongs to them and they to the tree. This small tree holds the hope and promise of new life and growth, just as we, in our community, hold the same promise of new life and growth together.

Stage 3 students of 2017 explained that they love this tree-planting tradition because they feel they are making the environment healthier; that over the years they have learned to be responsible for the life of the tree. They feel a constant sense of achievement as their tree grows. Some students felt they were making history and they look forward to showing their own children their tree in years to come. They feel they are leaving the school a better place. One student was quite emotional when she explained that she remembers the night she planted her tree and how meaningful it was − and is − for her. She looks forward to sharing that experience with the new members of the community at each opening school Mass.

The trees chosen for these occasions are large ornamental types that will provide shade for the classroom and for children to enjoy. They will make a vivid statement as they change colours with the seasons and with age.

Being a school focused on the environment, we have also been planting native trees each year at our combined Grandparents Day/National Tree Planting Day. The school grounds, the parish grounds, the local railway museum, and numerous community spaces have been planted by our school community as needed.

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