the Neighborhood Design Center



June 28, 2019

Planting Trees and Design Dreams at Valley View Elementary

This spring, NDC Staff Laura Robinson and Malik Johnson-Williams went to the Valley View Elementary  to conduct a tree planting demonstration for students. The demonstration was to coincide with a number of Earth Day-themed events happening at the school that week. Malik reports on the day of planting, which took place at his former Elementary School:

With the help of 24 second-grade students, Laura and I planted four Eastern Redbud trees. The project organizer was school counselor, Nakia Bethel Carter. We began with a brief presentation and introduction, explaining the work NDC as well as why trees are beneficial. We then split the students into groups of five to six, equipped with hand shovels and rakes. Each team of students planted their own tree by: (1) Digging a hole large enough for the new sapling, (2) preparing the hole for the tree by adding a mixture of soil conditioner and some of the old soil, (3) positioning a sapling in the hole while others filled the remainder of the hole, before tamping the ground with our feet, (4) covering the ground around the tree with a layer of mulch, and (5) placing a refillable water bag around the base of the tree for easy watering.

The children were very excited during the planting. Many already knew a lot about trees, and others had some experience growing things at home. Regardless of their experience level, every student was eager for the opportunity to dig and potentially find “buried treasure” or the “earth’s crust.” Once the demonstration was over, we told the children they were now stewards of these new trees, an honor they all received with the utmost seriousness.

Because I am an alumnus of the school, Ms. Carter invited me back to speak at Valley View’s Career Day on May 31st. Oddly enough, it was at my 5th grade career fair at Valley View that I decided that I wanted to become an architect. Thus, it was an amazing coincidence that a week before Career Day, I would graduate with my two Master’s degrees in Architecture & Community Planning.

I visited six or seven classrooms to speak to student’s grade 2nd through 6th about what an architect does, and how I use my skills to do community design. For many of the younger children, this was their first time learning about architecture. I explained to the kids that every place that they visit has been designed (many by architects), and how they can pursue a similar career path.

As visual aids, I brought my Lego Architecture set of the Chicago skyline, my architecture scale, and printed drawings of our CDW project at Iverson Mall.