How to help plant more trees at Chatham County schools

Local News

CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WSAV) — With a week to go until Giving Tuesday, the Savannah Tree Foundation is hoping to plant more trees — the gifts that keep on giving — on local school campuses.

The foundation is asking the public’s help in raising funds for its Cool Schools program, which aims to improve the tree canopies at Chatham County-area schools. 

The project will run through fall 2019 into winter 2020, with planting expected to take place between January and March.

Executive Director Zoe Rinker tells News 3 that right now, they’re targeting schools because the campuses in Chatham County only have a 35-percent tree canopy, overall.

“Some schools have as low as 8 percent,” Rinker said. “Beach High School has about 25-percent tree canopy, and that’s just not high enough to truly benefit our students.”

And what are those benefits?

A tree can last 100 years, so it’s really a good investment in our students, in our trees and in our future.” 

Zoe Rinker, Savannah Tree Foundation Executive Director

According to Rinker, studies have linked increased tree canopy to higher graduation rates, improved test scores, better concentration and relieving symptoms of ADHD among students.

“As a whole, having a view of greenery has actually been linked to students who are less stressed and perform better in school,” Rinker said. 

The foundation says the presence of trees can also improve physical fitness and public health. On the other hand, schools with fewer trees may have higher asthma irritants and hotter learning areas, with students likely spending less time outdoors. 

The Savannah Tree Foundation has targeted eight local schools, with five schools confirmed so far. 

Those confirmed campuses are Chatham Academy, Rice Creek School, West Chatham Elementary School, West Chatham Middle School and Beach High School.

The plan is to have students get in on the fun of tree planting and maintenance, once they return from winter break, and the foundation is coordinating with principals and teachers to make it happen. 

They’re hoping to plant 125 trees across those campuses through winter, including live oaks, cypresses, tupelos, river birches and red maples.

“We’re trying to make sure that we plant a diverse canopy so they can have, number one, a visual diversification, but also the benefits of having not just the same type of tree,” Rinker said.

The fundraising goal 

The overall goal is to raise $40,000, and the foundation says they’ve met over half of that amount from individual donors and a few corporate sponsors.

The cost of planting and maintaining a single tree over two years, according to the Savannah Tree Foundation, is $500. 

That includes the cost of the tree, planting equipment and the staff’s time to plant and maintain the trees.

The foundation hopes to raise $5,000 through its online campaign, and those funds will cover tree planting at one Chatham County school. 

“We’ve only raised about $700 of that so far, so we really are trying to raise the other $4,300 by next Tuesday, which is Giving Tuesday,” Rinker said.

“This week, we’re really trying to drum up some attention and get people excited about planting trees!”

The foundation calculated that if each of its more than 1,500 Facebook followers donated $3.25, the campaign could meet its $5,000 tree-planting goal for one campus.

“A gift of a tree is not just for the students today, it’s for the students tomorrow,” Rinker said.

“A tree can last 100 years, so it’s really a good investment in our students, in our trees and in our future.” 

If you’d like to donate, you can visit the Savannah Tree Foundation’s Facebook page or

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