Written by Elaine Maylen

The Portage Lake Garden Club, Onekama Consolidated Schools, and the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive (AATA) collaborated so that tenth-grade students could propagate trees at AATA’s Tree School. OCS science teacher Matt Lonn states, “We have just finished our unit on genetics. We are currently looking at plants and the processes unique to plants. Tree school ties everything together and provides a real-life application to the students’ learning.” Although this is the first time OCS students have attended Tree School, AATA has provided this education program to Grades K-12 and adults for ten years. PLCG members Mary Talbott, Christine Makinen Gravlin, and Faye Backie spearheaded the project.

I thought it would be more classroom learning, but it was hands-on, which made it interesting.

Carl Seller – Onekama tenth grade student

At tree school, students propagated over 200 black willow trees using clones from a National Champion Black Willow tree from Traverse City. The Black Willow is native to North America. It is known for its strength, height, flood resilience, and erosion control. It can clean contaminants out of the soil and is perfect for planting around waterways. At one point, black willow trees were abundant on the shores of Lake Michigan and Portage Lake.

Sophomore Carl Seller said the field trip was better than he thought. “I thought it would be more classroom learning, but it was hands-on, which made it interesting. I want to come back and learn to propagate different varieties of trees.” Caden Bradford added that he “hasn’t thought too much about climate change, but I am a little concerned. I can see that the climate is getting warmer.”

Images by Crescent Rose Photography

The black willow saplings will be about one foot tall in late May. At that point, the students will plant several saplings. The remainder will be sold for $20 through the Portage Lake Garden Club. For purchase information, please send an email to [email protected].

Located in Copemish, AATA is internationally known and respected for archiving the genetics of some of the oldest and largest trees on Earth. Living archives are created by making clones of ancient trees, then planting them in locations best suited for their survival. AATA focuses on ancient trees because the DNA of those trees has allowed them to grow for thousands of years, surviving climate changes and extreme weather events.

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