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Protecting trees, saving the environment

Local teacher trying to shield trees from danger

Photo by Jeylin White
Beryl Budd, arborist for the Georgia Forestry Commission in Athens, and Cynthia Brown, ESOL instructor at Roberta T. Smith Elementary School, inspect a 70-80-year-old water oak tree and its natural surroundings, at the school. Brown said she is working to preserve the area for students.

Photo by Jeylin White Beryl Budd, arborist for the Georgia Forestry Commission in Athens, and Cynthia Brown, ESOL instructor at Roberta T. Smith Elementary School, inspect a 70-80-year-old water oak tree and its natural surroundings, at the school. Brown said she is working to preserve the area for students.

Cynthia Brown, English Speaker of Other Languages instructor at Roberta T. Smith Elementary School in Clayton County, may not be classified as your average teacher.

During her time off –– when school’s not in session –– she spends her time cleaning, and protecting trees, located on the school’s property.

Her passion for protecting the area emerged last year, when she noticed an old, water oak tree –– located in a small, grass area –– while taking some students, who participate in the after-school program, on a nature walk.

Brown said she enjoys sharing her passion for the environment with students at the school, and often takes them around the campus, teaching the youngsters how important trees are to the environment.

Since the discovery of the water oak, she has grown fond of the tree, and its surroundings. “This has been my baby for a couple of years now,” Brown declared.

She said she checks on the area where the tree sits, at least once a week, making sure the it’s safe and presentable for students. However, recently –– while cleaning –– she said she noticed a long vine resembling a rope growing in the area around the tree. “I kept pulling and pulling and pulling,” said Brown, “until it covered my whole hand.”

What she found, was something called kudzu –– a weed that climbs over trees or shrubs and grows rapidly. It could potentially kill the tree because of heavy shading, she said.

After the discovery of kudzu, Brown contacted Beryl Budd, an arborist for the Georgia Forestry Commission, located in Athens, to inspect the area. He determined that the water oak is between 70 and 80 years old.

Budd said if the kudzu takes over, the tree could be in danger of having to be cut down.

“It would take chemicals to kill the kudzu,” said Budd. “But, the chemicals could be dangerous to the area.” He added that the best way to get rid of the kudzu is manually removing it from the area, adding, “It would take a lot of manpower.”

Brown said she is going to do her best to preserve the area and the tree, for the school, and the students. She said she will pull together some of her friends, who share her passion for the environment, and start removing the kudzu.

Budd said if Brown can get the area cleared of the kudzu, it will be an excellent area for students to learn about nature. “Instead of taking [students] on field trips to nature centers,” he said, “the school could save money –– because they have a nature center right here.”

Brown said she is a member of the Atlanta Audubon Society, an independent organization. She said its mission is to protect Georgia’s birds and the habitats that sustain them, through education, conservation and advocacy.

To protect the water oak tree and its natural surroundings, Brown said, her goal is to talk with the school’s principal and school district officials about having the Atlanta Audubon Society certify the area as a wildlife area for birds.

“The students are our future,” she said, “and it’s important for them to learn about our environment and natural resources.”