A group of about a dozen teens from Watertown will fan out around town this summer to find out where the street trees are, and where they could be planted.
The Teens for Trees program started last summer, when half a dozen students learned about trees, met with experts and combed the streets of Watertown to find trees in need of help. This year the students will be more focused, said program coordinator David Meshoulam, who said the teens will be mapping street trees in Watertown to create an inventory.
“There were 4,000-5,000 trees when the last inventory was done in 2008,” Meshoulam said. “A lot has happened since that time: a lot of development, a lot of trees have been taken down and a lot have been planted.”
Trees not only provide a bit of nature in residential streets, but Meshoulam said they can provide shade to cool homes in the summer and block wind in the winter to cut heating costs for residents.
The teens will use a cellphone app to mark where the trees stand, and where empty tree pits are located.
The goal, by summer’s end, is to create something that will be useful for Town officials.
“The final product will be a full report with a presentation to the Town Council,” Meshoulam said. “We will be talking to people at City Hall to see what will be helpful for them.”
Students will also be taking field trips to places like Mount Auburn Cemetery and Arnold Arboretum to broaden their knowledge about trees.
The Teens for Trees group met for the first time with Meshoulam last Thursday to find out more about the six-week program, and enjoyed some ice cream from Dizin FruttiBerri at Sasaki Associates’ office on the banks of the Charles River.
Meshoulam also invited Krishna Patel, a sophomore at Watertown High School, who designed the Teens for Trees logo that will go on shirts, websites and other places.
The group sat outside Sasaki’s offices on a wooden deck shaded by a large tree. Meshoulam did not miss a chance to talk with the teens about trees.
“See if you can figure out what kind of tree it is,” he said. “The bark is a good clue. Also, look at the leaves and the seeds.”
Meshoulam identified the tree as a river birch, probably a weeping one.
Many of the students will be paid for their work with Teens for Trees through the Watertown Community Foundation’s summer internship program. To earn the money, students must participate in the program for 120 hour — 20 hours a week — during the course of the summer.
Most of the students attend Watertown High School, but others attend Minuteman Regional Technical School and Catholic Memorial. All live in town.
WHS Junior Nick Follett said the program appealed to him because he has an interest in natural and life sciences.
“It seemed like a cool program in my town, and also I am getting paid,” Follett said.
For the most part, said WHS junior Andrew Hayek, it is difficult for high school students to find hands-on programs in the life sciences.
“I figure it is an outside the classroom opportunity (to learn about biology), ” Hayek said.
Joe Lassard, a junior at WHS, said he started to become interested in trees in 2010 when he learned that they can reduce water pollution. He said he enjoys science classes and also likes getting paid for the work.
Teens for Trees is part of the Trees for Watertown group, which advocates for trees in town. David Jay, a Trees for Watertown board member, said that the work the teens will be doing will be useful, and he was happy to see the large number of participants.
“David got 11 or so kids who are dedicating their summer to this,” Jay said. “That says a lot for the appreciation for trees in town.”
Follow the student’s progress on the Teens for Trees website, tfwteensfortrees.org, or on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Teens for Trees is supported by the Watertown Community Foundation, Sasaki Associates, VHB, Watertown Savings Bank and Miss Maria’s School of Dance.