Nature’s recipe for trees: Sugar Grove Elementary third grader Jameson Cooper, center, wears a tree on his head as he represents green leaf chlorophyll as he listens to Professor Elwood Pricklethorn, a.k.a. Warren Hoselton, explain how nature builds trees with the ingredients represented by Cooper and his schoolmates on Tuesday at the school. Tribune-Star/Joseph C. Garza
Nature’s recipe for trees: Sugar Grove Elementary third grader Jameson Cooper, center, wears a tree on his head as he represents green leaf chlorophyll as he listens to Professor Elwood Pricklethorn, a.k.a. Warren Hoselton, explain how nature builds trees with the ingredients represented by Cooper and his schoolmates on Tuesday at the school. Tribune-Star/Joseph C. Garza
As zany Professor Elwood Pricklethorn finished up his program extolling the benefits of trees to the environment and the community, Sugar Grove Elementary student Jasmin Francis shouted out, “That’s incredible. Who knew?”

In real-life, Pricklethorn is internationally certified arborist Warren Hoselton of Toronto, Canada.

But on Tuesday, he took on the character of Pricklethorn, donning a white wig, neon green shirt and tennis shoes, a bow tie made of Legos and glasses with a plastic bird attachment. He delivered a fun, fast-paced and interactive program that had children listening, laughing, clapping and singing.

As he began talking about the “tree-mendous” topic, he told students that trees are “critical to our well-being.”

They produce oxygen and capture carbon dioxide. They provide fruit, nuts, lumber and shelter. They keep houses cool and help save on energy costs. Trees stop erosion.

“Trees give us medicine,” Pricklethorn said. The active ingredient in aspirin comes from the bark of the willow tree, and resin from the Pacific ewe tree is used to treat cancer.

Also, trees “make us feel good,” he said.

Trees give off something called phytoncides, which boost the immune system, help with depression and improve concentration. “Has anyone ever gone for a long walk in the forest? Do you not feel better when you come out of the forest?” he asked.

Professor Pricklethorn had children repeat the phrase, “I will plant the right tree in the right place.” He gave examples of poor choices, such as an apple tree too close to a pool or a large tree with a root system too close to a sidewalk.

Then he used student volunteers to illustrate the process of photosynthesis. The students wore special hats to represent the sun’s energy, water, green leaf chlorophyll, carbon dioxide and sugar in the tree.

His final student helper, who depicted oxygen, wore a crown. “You are the crowning moment of photosynthesis,” Pricklethorn told the student. “Finally, we get free oxygen. Is that not amazing?”

He told students how to take care of trees and he had them read a pledge. “From this point on I promise I will look at trees differently and see the invisible things they give us. When planting a tree, I will think about what is needed to plant the right tree in the right place,” they recited in part.

They concluded with a song, “All we are saying is give trees a chance.”

During the presentation, Professor Pricklethorn was accompanied by Trees Inc. president Kim Kimbler, who dressed in costume as a tree.

Prior to his presentation, Hoselton explained the goal of his program.

“We want to start them learning at a young age to look at trees differently ... Trees are a living, functioning, growing, dynamic organism and we have to work with trees and take care of them, because they take care of us,” Hoselton said. “Trees are critical to us every breathing moment of the day. The more we learn about that, the better we do at looking after them.”

Also, planting trees is one of the easiest things people can do to help combat climate change and the warming of the planet. Climate change is complicated and overwhelming, he said. “I know it’s a big mountain to climb, but [planting a tree] is something we can all do.”

Kimbler said she was happy to see kids get so excited about trees and she hopes the program “might inspire them to do something with trees on down in their lives.”

After the program, second-grader Jasmin Francis said, “I learned that trees are really good for us and the planet.” She enjoyed the program. Professor Pricklethorn “was silly,” she said.

Liam Halleck, also a second grader, learned that “trees like carbon dioxide” and that water goes from a tree’s roots all the way up the tree and is then released into the air. Professor Pricklethorn “was funny and cool,” he said.

Hoselton’s visit was sponsored by Duke Energy and TREES Inc., a local non-profit environmental group serving Vigo County.
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