LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTAL/KMSS) – Arkansas schools still have time to apply for a Department of Forestry program that helps them create shady spaces on their playgrounds.

Applications are being accepted for the S.T.O.P. or Shade Trees on Playground program.

Schools that are accepted will receive up to five native Arkansas shade trees, plus mulch, supplies to water the trees, and guidelines for planting.

Staff from the forestry division will help students from selected plant trees during official ceremonies to take place this fall.

STOP program has been in place for 21 years and also gives teachers resources about the environmental benefits of trees.

To date, 165 schools in Arkansas have already planted trees on playgrounds across the state and in the process are reducing childhood skin exposure to direct sunlight.

Teachers have access to curriculum resources to teach students how shade reduces the risk of skin cancer and how to care for trees.

Kristine Kimbro, Arkansas Urban and Community Forestry Coordinator said the STOP program combines hands-on outdoor experiences with classroom curriculum to teach the importance of trees.

“We hope this program not only improves the health of Arkansas students but also leaves a lasting impression about the value of community trees and how to be good stewards of our natural resources,” said Kimbro.

Native sycamores, oaks, tulip poplars, and black gum trees are all common species planted through the program.

Your school must meet the following criteria to participate in the STOP program:

  • Need shade on a school playground
  • Be able to participate on Oct. 2 in a digital STOP workshop
  • Agree to use provided resource materials to teach children the importance of planting trees during the weeks leading up to the planting ceremony
  • Involve students in tree-related projects leading up to the ceremony
  • Host the ceremony before Dec. 21, 2023
  • Have a working plan to maintain trees after they’re planted

Any public or private schools that serve grades pre-K through 12 may apply. Non-traditional educational facilities such as residential childcare institutions, long-term care facilities, and juvenile detention centers may also apply.

Visit the website to learn more about the STOP program.

For more information about STOP, email either Kristine Kimbro or Harold Fisher