ROCK ISLAND, Ill. — Taking a tiny tree and wrapping the bottom in newspaper, Washington Junior High seventh grader Lauren Dieeudine is just one small part of a large project.
She's helping wrap trees for Living Lands and Waters as part of her science class.
"It's hands on and it gets us ready for what we're learning in our class for the lesson and we're helping out the earth as well," Lauren said.
Her partner Amelia is helping dunk the wrapped trees in water before passing them along to be bagged and tied shut.
"I'm dipping the trees in water. I can learn more hands on," Amelia said.
Living Lands and Waters set a goal for the MillionTrees project back in 2007 to plant one-million trees. They've since surpassed that goal, planting 1.6 million.
The organization now sets yearly goals. Students at Washington Junior High are helping to reach that mark which sits at 150,000 trees this year.
Grant Fessler works for Living Lands and Waters. He plays a heavy hand in visiting schools and working with the students.
"The main ones we do are white oak, bur oak and red oak," Fessler said. "They go all over the Midwest, maybe even farther."
The pandemic cut off the group's access to students for the past two years, which makes up the main portion of their volunteers. Fessler explained it's great to be able to offer the educational value once again while also getting more trees ready to plant.
"It's been a lot of help, makes things easier for us. It's just great to get back here and get trees in kids hands," Fessler said.
For Amelia, it's not only a hands on learning experience, but a way to do good for the Earth. It's a welcome experience after spending the past two years in and out of online learning.
"It feels really good. Because you can give back and we can share some social time and work and do good for our planet," she said.
Each school wraps a slightly different amount of trees based on how many students are present. But each school wraps thousands.
"Yesterday the students wrapped a little over 3,000 trees. So we're expecting probably something similar for today. Maybe a little bit more," Fessler said. "You know, it depends on the school. Sometimes we'll wrap 4,000 or 5,000 a day."
Trees are distributed to businesses, parks and even individual people who request them, going from this junior high gym to landscapes across the Midwest.