Tree planting at MST

Students enjoying the playgrounds at Marion Math, Science & Technology Magnet will have some new shady spots in the years ahead, thanks to a grant from the Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Forestry Division.

MST was one of only 9 schools in Arkansas selected to participate in the 2023 Shade Trees on Playgrounds (STOP) program. On Wednesday morning, representatives from the Forestry Division were on the MST campus to help students plant the trees.

“We are thrilled to be able to be part of this amazing program,” said Chuneka Scott, MST principal. “Not only will this allow us to create some nice shade for our playground, but it also provided a great hands-on learning opportunity for our students.”

With the Forestry Division staff present, MST students learned about the trees that were being planted, why planting trees is important, and how to care for the trees. Students also took turns helping shovel dirt and mulch around their new trees.

“This was more than just planting trees – it was a great learning opportunity for our students,” said Shannon Banks, who helped coordinate the project for the school. “And this is just the beginning. We have plans to have a complete arboretum full of trees on our campus, that we can add to year after year.”

The STOP program was organized to help lower adult skin cancer risk by reducing childhood exposure to direct sunlight where children play, like school and daycare playgrounds. Through its participation in the program, MST received five shade trees, mulch, watering supplies, and planting guidelines. School officials also participated in program training.

To qualify for the program, participating schools must lack shade, participate in a virtual STOP workshop, include curriculum resources that emphasize the importance of trees and forestry in Arkansas, hold a tree-planting ceremony with students, and agree to provide long-term maintenance of the planted shade trees. The trees are native species chosen to fit the unique conditions of each playground.

“The STOP program combines hands-on, outdoor experiences with classroom curriculum about the importance of trees and how to care for them,” said Kristine Kimbro, Urban and Community Forestry Program coordinator. “We hope this program not only improves the health of Arkansas students but leaves a lasting impression about the value of forests and how to be good stewards of our natural resources.”

The Marion School District is an innovative and growing district committed to helping every student find their unique path to success in school and in life. With more than 150 years of experience serving families in Crittenden County, the district offers a high school, a junior high, a seventh grade school, and three award-winning magnet schools. For enrollment information, including information on school choice, visit or call 870-739-5100.