Classmate’s memory lives on

Tree’s colors will bring recollections of a friend

By Dawn Schuett

GOODHUE — The sugar maple, with leaves that turn orange in the fall, is Kaitlin Ackerson’s favorite tree.

Kaitlin, 10, hadn’t decided that until Friday when her fourth-grade class at Goodhue Public School planted one in memory of classmate Bryce Breuer, who died from leukemia in February 2007. His favorite color was orange, so the tree’s leaves will be a reminder of him each autumn.


"He had a lot of friends, but the thing he loved most was school because he hardly ever got to come," Kaitlin said after the tree was planted at a nearby park. "Mostly, what I liked about Bryce is his smile, and he’d never take it away."

About 45 fourth-graders gathered around Ed McNamara, a Goodhue County Soil and Water Conservation District supervisor and the father of a student in the class, to watch as he planted the tree on Arbor Day.

Earlier in the classroom, McNamara; Glen Roberson, manager of the conservation district; and Mike Wachholz, a forester at the Lake City office of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, talked to the students about when and how to plant a tree.

McNamara and Roberson had visited the class twice before to educate students on the importance of trees, the many uses of wood and identifying the different types of trees. It’s the kind of outreach the conservation district would like to expand into other fourth-grade classrooms in the county, Roberson and McNamara said.

The students’ specific knowledge of trees has grown faster than a seedling.

"Trees are not the same, but they grow differently and have different leaves," Kaitlin said. The tallest cash crop in Minnesota, trees are used for their wood in the construction industry and as a fuel source, and they produce oxygen, she said.

Trina Jenson, 10, knows firsthand that sap for maple syrup comes from a tree. She sees sap dripping from the "leaky tree" at her grandmother’s property.

Sharing lessons with kids about trees and the environment is important for the youngest generation and those to come, McNamara said. "It gets back to starting with respect, responsibility" and other core values children learn at school.

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