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Forestview's 'kindergarten grove' keeps growing

Garfield Elementary School kindergarten teacher Joleen Zerwas leads her class along a path in the Dean Makey School Forest at Forestview Middle School this week. (Brainerd Dispatch/ Steve Kohls)

A class of Garfield Elementary School kindergartners made their contribution to the growing kindergarten grove at Forestview Middle School Wednesday.

Each fall, kindergarten classes from each Brainerd Public Schools elementary school plant a tree in a grove in the Dean Makey School Forest at Forestview.

The grove, dubbed "kindergarten grove," now features 125-150 trees, Makey said, since its inception in the fall of 2011. The trees are donated by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and arrive in the spring.

Makey pots the trees and cares for them over the summer, and then delivers them to the different kindergarten classrooms at the start of the school year in the fall. The trees remain in the classroom for 3-4 weeks, Makey said, while the students learn about and care for the Norway or white pine seedlings.

The students then take a field trip to the school forest at Forestview, where Makey helps them plant the trees. Wednesday, Makey lended a hand to Joleen Zerwas' Garfield Elementary School kindergarten class as they planted their tree.

"They really like coming out and planting the tree," Makey said.

Makey said his favorite part about helping the kindergarteners plant their trees is how excited they are to come out to the school forest. Some actually grow attached to their tree, he said, and are sad to leave it.

"They've named it, and kind of grown attached to it," Makey said. "But we tell them that we take good care of it."

The idea is that middle school students will take care of the trees, so when kindergarteners arrive as fifth-graders, they can find their tree, Makey said. There's even a handy chart on the site that shows the location and name of each tree planted by each class.

"Most of the classes are now naming their tree when they bring it out," Makey said.

Currently, the school district has about 22 kindergarten classes, Makey said. The number fluctuates, but about 20 trees are planted in the grove each year. The grove is growing quickly, so Makey is already thinking ahead to where it could expand.

Road construction in Baxter resulted in the removal of soil from the forest, which has opened up more room, Makey said. Contractors will regrade the leftover soil, which will provide a place to plant more trees.

Some of the names the classes come up with for their trees are pretty amusing, Makey said. Names like Pokey and Sharpy are popular, because of the sharp needles, he said.

"One year, there were a couple students that were leaving school," Makey said. "And they named them after those students."

SPENSER BICKETT may be reached at 218-855-5859 or Follow on Twitter at

Spenser Bickett

Spenser Bickett covers the Brainerd City Council and education. A native of the Twin Cities, Bickett attended the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he majored in journalism with a minor in political science. After graduation, he worked for the International Falls Journal as a staff writer before coming to Brainerd.

(218) 855-5859