MANSFIELD — When Maverick Aldstadt saw the dozens of downed trees, he knew something had to be done.
Aldstadt and the rest of his kindergarten class were hiking through the forest beside Discovery School in May after strong windstorms swept through the region.
Aldstadt and another student asked their teacher if they could replace the trees. Their urgency prompted the school to embark on a mass tree planting project. Students, parents, grandparents and teachers planted nearly 70 saplings in the school’s 20-acre woods.
But Aldstadt didn’t stop there. The seed was planted. A newfound passion took root.
“Every day he would go out in the playground and bring me more and more pine cones,” said Alyssa Nugent, Aldstadt’s kindergarten teacher. “He made me identify trees.
“He made me go out and find a sycamore seed ball and we started growing seed in our classroom.”
Aldstadt’s desk slowly transformed into a mini nursery. He covered it with cups, filled with soil and various seeds he found in the school woods. Nugent let him work at another table, freeing up his desk for propagating efforts.
“As Maverick got excited, my other kids got even more excited and it became a daily effort,” Nugent said. “We were writing stories about trees every day, we were reading books about trees every day.
“It challenged me as a teacher to come up with new books and new things.”
Then he started growing trees at home, too. Friends gave him a sequoia tree kit. His family got seeds from the Arbor Day Foundation. Aldstadt planted them in pots and his backyard.
“He’d bring bags of pinecones, acorns, sweet gum tree pods home that he would find at school,” said Aldstadt’s mother Brooke.
Aldstadt was honored for his tree-panting efforts Friday during the 27th Anniversary Earth Stewardship Celebration in downtown Mansfield.
The 6-year-old won two awards — a second-place award in the neighborhood category as well as a Star Award.
“It’s very special,” Brooke Aldstadt said. “I’m very proud of him and I know he’s proud too.
Making change one person at a time
The Take Pride! Earth Stewardship Contest has recognized local groups, organizations, businesses and individuals since 1996. Each year, the award committee reviews litter clean ups, tree plantings, beautification projects, community gardens and recycling programs throughout Richland County.
This year, 37 groups completed approximately 51 projects, according to Aurelio Diaz, Mansfield’s 5th ward councilman. The Earth Stewardship Celebration committee estimates about 1,724 volunteers put in more than 10,552 hours.
Those volunteers planted around 2,500 flowers and vegetables, 42 trees, 100 tree seedling and three community gardens.
Kim Hildreth, project planner for the city of Mansfield, said the program is proof that small acts make a big difference.
“It gets the whole community involved,” she said. “If you look of some of the photos we have of some of the cleanups, you see what a good time people are having and it’s like, ‘Well, I can do that too.'”
Hildreth said it encouraged her to see Aldstadt and other children participating.
“Maybe thats one of the things we lose as we get older,” she mused. “When you’re a kid you believe you can change the world. And you know what? We really can, one person at a time.”
The other winners included:
Mechanics Bank, 1st place for business, for its flower planting beautification project.
Martini’s on Main, the Clubhouse and the Renaissance Theatre, 2nd place for business, for its litter cleanup in Mansfield’s downtown area and Ward 5.
Charter Next Generation, 3rd place for business, for its beautification and clean up of Lexington Community Park.
Discovery School, 1st place for schools, for planting trees and ferns in the school forest and doing a litter cleanup.
City of Ontario and Ontario High School’s community cleanup team, 2nd place for schools, for its litter clean ups.
Lexington Scout Troop 152, 1st place for churches and non-profits, for planting 20 trees donated by Alta Florist and Greenhouse at the Clearfork Reservoir Campground to replace trees lost during a 2022 tornado.
Rotary Club of Mansfield, 2nd place for churches and non-profits, for planting trees along Marion Avenue which were donated by Alta Florist & Greenhouse.
The North End Community Improvement Collaborative, 3rd place for churches and non-profits, for its annual 60/60 clean up.
The South Park Children’s Education Garden, 1st place for neighborhood.
Ward 5 residents, 3rd place for neighborhood, for their litter clean up.
Richland County Regional Planning, 1st place for government, for its litter clean up.
Richland County Engineer’s Office, 2nd place for government, for its litter clean up and beautification efforts.
City of Mansfield and Downtown Mansfield Inc., 3rd place for government, for its 27th annual Operation Clean Sweep.
Prima Visual Media, People’s Choice Award for its litter clean ups at Burton, Prospect, Sterkel and South Park.
City of Ontario community cleanup team, Star Award for Ontario.
Lexington Scout Troop 152, Star Award for Lexington.
BlueScope Recycling, Star Award for Shelby.
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