St. Joseph students nuts about acorns

Photo submitted to Times Observer St. Joseph Catholic School students (from left) Lucas Thrift, Emma Kisselbach, Izzy Grosch, and Maggie Bennett were among the school’s participants in the Allegheny National Forest Acorn Initiative. Students collected 265 pounds of viable acorns for the project.

Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.

Thanks to fifth- and sixth-grade students at St. Joseph Catholic School, hundreds of mighty oaks will grow on the Allegheny National Forest in a few years.

When sixth-grader Lucas Thrift brought a large bag of acorns into Kate Kiser’s science class, volunteer Claire Fanelli remembered reading that the ANF is looking for acorns.

Fanelli reached out to Forester Terry Witzel at the Marienville Ranger District and learned more about the acorn initiative.

Thrift’s bag of acorns inspired a week-long competition at the school. In the end, sixth-graders brought in 259.8 pounds of acorns while fifth-graders collected 162.8 pounds.

Photo submitted to Times Observer St. Joseph Catholic School students test acorns for viability — if they sink, they’re viable — after collecting more than 420 pounds of acorns in one week for the Allegheny National Forest Acorn Initiative.

The sixth grade was named the victor, but the real winners are the Allegheny National Forest and those who enjoy it.

Not all of the acorns will become trees.

Witzel told Fanelli how to determine if acorns are viable.

“Students learned that if the acorns sank in water, they were keepers,” Kiser said. “However, if they floated, they were unusable.”

“Of the 422.6 pounds collected, 265 pounds were viable,” she said.

“This was a wonderful opportunity for local school students to assist us with our seed (acorn) collection needs, which will support future tree planting efforts on the Allegheny National Forest while providing students an opportunity to learn more about forests,” Ecosystem Management Staff Officer Andrea Hille said. “The acorns collected by students at St. Joe’s will be shipped to the U.S. Forest Service Toumey Tree Nursery in northern Michigan, where they will be sown and allowed to develop into oak seedlings.”

“We will request the resulting oak seedlings once they are at least two years old, to be planted out into forested areas on the Allegheny National Forest to grow into mature oak trees,” Hille said.

“The seedlings are projected to return home between 2022 and 2024,” Kiser said. And, the ANF will try to reconnect with students who collected the acorns and encourage them to help plant the saplings.


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