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Rare NASA Moon Tree Planted at Franklin

Franklin teacher smiles with a NASA Moon Tree certificate

The Franklin Elementary and Middle School Complex is now home to a NASA Moon Tree thanks to the great work of seventh-grade science teacher Lisa Valle and her students. The American sycamore sapling, which was planted Wednesday, May 15th, was grown from a seed sent to the Moon and back and is one of only 50 such trees distributed nationwide through NASA and the U.S. Forest Service.

With the help of Lowes, Davey Tree, U&S Services, and the district’s Buildings & Grounds Department, the sapling has been planted and secured in a metal enclosure near the Franklin playground behind the school with special precautions taken to protect it as it grows.

“From the tiny seed that traveled to the moon and back, let this Moon Tree remind us that even the smallest beginnings can lead to extraordinary growth,” said Mrs. Valle, who was joined by dozens of Franklin students and staff for the dedication and planting. “I hope that, just like this Moon Tree reaching for the stars, may all of my students continue to grow strong and resilient, while shining brightly and making our Earth a better place.”

She was joined by members of the Franklin Middle School Environmental Club, which engages in various activities such as the recent clean-up at the Niagara River Greenway Shoreline Trail, as well as students who participated in the GLOBE Program and school staff and administrators.

Through NASA’s Artemis Program, which seeks to reestablish a human presence on the Moon for the first time since the 1972 Apollo 17 mission, tree seeds from five different species were sent into space and orbited the moon. The seeds were flown aboard the Orion spacecraft during the unmanned Artemis I mission which launched on November 16th, 2022 and returned 25 days later. The seeds traveled hundreds of thousands of miles through space and orbited the moon several times as the Orion traveled farther away from Earth than any surface-returning human-rated spacecraft in history.

The effort was inspired by the work of NASA astronaut Stuart Roosa, who brought tree seeds aboard the 1971 Apollo 14 mission which were later planted and are now flourishing throughout the U.S. NASA provided educational organizations such as museums, universities, and school districts the opportunity to apply to receive one of the newest generation of Moon Tree seedlings. Approximately 1,300 institutions and organizations applied for one of the first 50 saplings distributed.

Mrs. Valle took it upon herself to apply for one of the trees and was successful in large part thanks to her and her students’ participation in NASA’s GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment) Program. Through this initiative, students across the country were challenged to take various atmospheric measurements which were then verified against data collected from NASA satellites.

Mrs. Valle then worked in partnership with Lowes, which donated materials for the construction of a metal fence to enclose the sapling, as well as the Ken-Ton School District Buildings & Grounds Department led by Director of Facilities Tim Ames, which constructed the fence and prepared the site. Mr. Ames also consulted with Davey Tree, which provided guidance in planting and protecting the tree, while U&S Services donated a security camera as a precaution.

“Our tree has been planted with a purpose to symbolize the enduring spirit of exploration and our capacity to turn dreams into reality,” Mrs. Valle said.