Mazie Gable plants trees to celebrate national contest

Alyssa Pressler
  • Mazie Gable Elementary School celebrated winning Scotties Tissues Trees Rock video contest
  • The Red Lion community helped the school win by voting on the video several months ago
  • The $10,000 prize money will go toward creating their outdoor classroom

Five years ago Mazie Gable Elementary School's outdoor classroom was just a slab of concrete and an idea from fourth-grade teacher Carrie Lankford.

On Wednesday, Lankford was able to appreciate how far the idea had come as her class planted a sugar maple tree to celebrate winning a national video contest hosted by Scotties Tissues. The Trees Rock video contest awarded the school $10,000 to be used toward a sustainable project, such as the outdoor classroom.

Mazie Gable Elementary School Envirothon member and fifth-grader Maia Mundis, 10, left, and sixth-grader Kayla Tracey, 12, right, add dirt to the hole surrounding the school's newly planted sugar maple tree Wednesday, June 1, 2016.  The tree was planted in celebration of the Red Lion school winning the $10,000 grand prize from Scotties Tissue in a national video contest. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The school was notified that their submission had won in February but waited  until the weather was nicer to celebrate by planting a commemorative tree.

Janet Prensky, spokeswoman for Scotties Tissues, stressed that having the most creative video is just one small part of winning the contest. The students also had to learn how to market the video in order for it to get the highest number of votes.

"We're very proud of the school and the creativity, but we're also proud of how they got the win," Prensky said. "The students learned the secrets to generating a buzz."

Some of the marketing strategies used by the school included social media and table tents in local restaurants encouraging community members to vote.

Principal Brian Raab also was  incredibly proud of the students, smiling as he watched them take turns putting dirt on their newest addition to the outdoor classroom.

"It's powerful for me and the students to see the community come together to support us," he said.

The Red Lion community not only helped the video win by voting on it continuously, but since the video took off, the school has received more and more donations to the outdoor classroom, according to Lankford. In the last few months,  the school has been given picnic tables, plants and flowers, some of which students used to make the raised flower beds.

Raab also mentioned a new composting bin that had been donated, which the school will use for the soil in the gardens.

Lenny Haines, left, of The Landscape Company & Nursery, looks on as Mazie Gable Elementary School fifth-grader Mikaila Kornbau, 11, surrounded by fellow Envirothon members, adds a shovel full of dirt to the hole at the base of the newly planted sugar maple tree at the school in Red Lion, Wednesday, June 1, 2016. The tree was planted in celebration of winning the $10,000 grand prize from Scotties Tissue for winning a national video contest. Dawn J. Sagert  photo

The contest: Lankford said that the idea for the outdoor classroom started five years ago when she had approached the former principal about pulling up some of the concrete.

"I don't think they knew what I was getting them into then," she said with a laugh.

Teaching outside is a passion of hers, so for years she and her classes, as well as other classrooms in the elementary school, have been scraping together funds through recycling aluminum cans and other initiatives to take baby steps toward finishing the outdoor classroom.

Lankford said that she heard about the national video contest and entered on a whim, not expecting things to get this far.

"We spent years scrapping for anything, but the purpose was to get the students outside and get them in nature," she said. "It's something I'm passionate about, getting kids outdoors and involved."

The Trees Rock video contest required the students to create a video that was up to three minutes long, describing how trees were important to themselves, the school and the community.

Scotties Tissues shares Lankford's passion for sustainability and the environment, according to Prensky. She explained the company has a 3-to-1 promise, which means that for every one tree they use, they plant three others to replace it. The videos entered in the contest have a focus on trees for this reason.

"They are our future, and they're environmental stewards already," Prensky said. "I feel good about the future."

Mazie Gable Elementary School student water the newly planted sugar maple tree Wednesday, June 1, 2016, at the school in Red Lion. The tree was planted in celebration of winning the $10,000 grand prize from Scotties Tissue in a national video contest.  Dawn J. Sagert  photo