A small group of LaRue Miller Elementary students is doing their part to replenish trees that have been removed due to construction in Midlothian.

The service learning project stems from the international competition called Destination Imagination that encourages innovation, teamwork and creative problem-solving. Teams choose one of seven STEAM-based — science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics — open-ended challenges and then plan, create, and present their solution.

The team known as the "Biofighters" consists of Ashley Guffey, Wyatt Butterworth, Jordan Rivera, Kaiden Day and Paxton Day and Nolan Wilson. The team manager is Kissy Day.

The team first met on Oct. 19 to brainstorm the master plan and took on the challenge to enhance the community.

"The neighborhoods used to be a lot smaller, and there were more trees, which was nice because you had shade and would get to play all the time without getting hot," Kaiden said. "But now, on the road over here, it used to be all trees, and they've all been torn down."

The group of fifth-grade students approached the Planning and Zoning board the following month with questions about the tree ordinance and what they could do to protect the trees. The students were referred to speak with city council next.

On Nov. 30, the kids established a community partner with Earthtones Greenery. The employees provided a tour of the landscaping company and educated the students of the benefits of trees. Butterworth said he learned that two fruit trees need to be planted together so they can cross-pollinate. On that same day, Lowe’s in Waxahachie donated an enormous box of seeds. The Master Naturalists also played an education role.

The kids attended a city council meeting on Dec. 11 and requested permission to donate them. This followed up by a meeting with the city manager, assistant city manager, the directors of Parks and Recreations and Planning and Zoning.

The trees will be planted by the students and community partners by Feb. 23 — the day of the first round of competition.

The kids are not just advocating for just willow and oak trees for sale, but fruit trees for a particular purpose.

“People can’t pay for their food because they are poor so they could pick an apple or orange off the tree,” said Jordan Rivera.

“Trees prevent floods, they catch a lot of the water, they are also great for picnics because they provide a lot of shade and they provide oxygen and reduces ADHD,” added Paxton Day.

Paxton also noted that about 50 students from each campus struggle daily to pay for food. “We want to help those children out,” Paxton said.

The students will complete the service learning project and then incorporate the back story into an eight-minute skit at DI. The story is about a little boy who plants a tree and grows up with it and moves onto the next stage in life as a married man. When the man and his wife have a child, the tree is no longer there due to construction.

“You can’t stop development,” Kaiden said.

In the skit, the characters express themselves to the city council just as the students did in real life.

When Guffey reflected on the entire experience, she said the most exciting part was when the group spoke to city leaders. “All of the experiences that we’ve had together as a team at Earthtones and city council was really run. It’s not every day that you get to do that.”

The group is selling trees, flower, herb and vegetable seeds, and seed wreaths. All proceeds go directly to the City of Midlothian so trees can be planted in parks, schools and street medians. Trees available for purchase include plum, peach, cedar, pecan, pear, oak and willow.

A five-gallon tree is $15, and a 10-gallon tree is $22. Also, in an individual donates $40 or more, he or she will be eligible for a name plaque for the tree. The seeds are $1, and a small seed wreath is $15, and a large one is $20. A GoFundMe is also available at. The deadline is Feb. 22.

The students will compete in the first round of Destination ImagInation at Northwest ISD on Feb. 23. If interested in purchasing a tree, contact kissyday@yahoo.com

- - - - - -  Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450