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U.S. Capitol Christmas tree stops at MSU

November 16, 2014

This is the first time any Capitol Christmas tree has been brought to MSU.

Rich Kobe, chair of the forestry department, said MSU has one of the strongest forestry programs around and has the oldest, continuous undergraduate program in forestry, which started in 1902.

“When the truck was coming through Michigan, I think this was a natural place for it to stop because of the strong forestry connection here,” Kobe said.

The forestry groups created a program to engage local elementary school students, though it was also useful for other students.

“It’s beneficial for undergraduate students because ... most forestry-related careers have a component of community outreach,” forestry doctoral student Sahar Haghighat said. The graduates, undergraduates and faculty are all benefitting by coming together to run this event and teach the next generation of forestry students.

Forestry freshman Andy Gordon said he thinks helping out allows him to get his foot in the door in terms of community service work, which is a huge part of forestry.

The logistics of moving the 88-foot-tall, 88-year-old, 13,000-pound white spruceare complicated. Many of the individuals involved in transporting the tree were available to talk to students about their role in its lengthy journey to more than 30 locations before it arrives on the west lawn of the White House.

Public Affairs Officer for Chippewa National Forest Mike Theune  said, “Because of the forestry program here at MSU, it’s an opportunity for us to connect students to their careers.”

Haghighat said kids from kindergarten through 12th grade had the opportunity to plant a seedling, get a certificate and learn about tree biology and its importance in their world. Sustainability and the possibility of reducing global climate change was another educational focus.

“I hope they gain an appreciation for trees,” Kobe said. “We really want to foster that connection to the natural world.”

Pam Nicoll, a third-grade teacher at Central Elementary School in Linden, said her students recently finished covering forests in their science class, so the event came at an opportune time. Her class was following the tree online and she said the kids were very excited to see it.

Nicoll said she hopes her students will learn from the forestry groups’ planned activities, but that they cherish the memory of seeing the tree because it is not something everyone gets to experience.

Just watching the kids’ faces makes this a great event, Nicoll said.

Because of this event, Haghighat said, “They can leave with a little piece of (knowledge), like ‘I can make my own difference.’” 


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