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Western Illinois University senior Tom Gray, of Chicago, helped West Prairie fifth and sixth grade students plant a new tree in Colchester's Friendway Park Thursday afternoon as part of a WIU forestry class.
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Forestry Students Add Trees to Illinois Communities

April 26, 2012

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MACOMB, IL – As a celebration of Arbor Day and the nearing end of the Western Illinois University spring semester, WIU senior Tom Gray gathered West Prairie Middle School students Thursday for a hands-on lesson in trees.

Gray is a student in Instructor Paul Blome's urban forestry class at WIU, where the final project challenged students to go out into a community, garner the donation of a tree and plant it with the help of children.

As the end of Gray's project, he planted a royal raindrops crabapple tree with fifth and sixth graders from Julie Ann Bice's science classes. The children met with Gray Thursday afternoon in Colchester's Friendway Park, so the tree could be placed next to the community's recently installed playground equipment.

The tree was donated by Heartland Bank of Colchester.

Gray, a recreation, parks and tourism administration major and forestry minor, talked with the students about the tree and its future. In return, the students told Gray, who they referred to as "tree man," what they've been learning.

The students then helped fill in dirt around the tree and finally cover the base with mulch.

"This project started at the beginning of the semester," Gray said. "Our class had to go out to other communities and do this program to plant trees. I'm really glad I picked Colchester."

Thursday's tree planting was also to mark Friday's celebration of Arbor Day nationwide.

Posted By: Jodi Pospeschil (
Office of University Communications & Marketing