Arkansas Agriculture’s Forestry Commission is accepting applications for the 2019 Shade Trees on Playgrounds (STOP) program through Friday, May 3.


The program is for schools that need additional shade on playgrounds, according to a news release.


Selected schools will receive five shade trees, mulch, watering supplies and planting guidelines. Officials with the Arkansas Forestry Commission (AFC) will help plant the trees during a ceremony with students in the fall.


“Urban forestry staff began the STOP program 16 years ago to help lower adult skin cancer risk by reducing childhood exposure to direct sunlight on school playgrounds,” according to the release. “Since then, more than 100 Arkansas schools have received trees.”


Teachers also receive a full curriculum about the environmental benefits of trees, how shade reduces skin cancer risks and tips for keeping trees healthy.


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


“Trees are chosen by AFC staff to fit the unique region and conditions of each playground. Lacebark elms, oaks, tulip poplars, and black gum trees are common candidates for the program,” according to the release.


To participate in the STOP program, a school must have a lack shade on a school playground, participate in a STOP workshop at Little Rock on Sept. 9, use provided curriculum materials to emphasize the importance of trees during the week leading up to the tree planting event, involve students in tree-related projects that culminate with a tree planting ceremony, hold a tree planting ceremony before Nov. 15, and be willing to maintain the trees after planting.


For details or an application, visit https://www.agriculture.arkansas.gov/stop-program1 .