STUDENTS at a North-East school swapped their calculators for cultivators as they helped to plant new trees in the school’s grounds to celebrate Earth Day.

A team of 23 Year 7 students, assisted by school staff, planted six new trees in the grounds of Hummersknott Academy, in Darlington.

They included one that grew from an acorn dropped by an oak which has stood on the land since the school first opened in 1955 as the Darlington High School for Girls.

The extracurricular activity was spearheaded by teacher Eve Sweeting as part of a project with The Tree Council, a national body which encourages planting trees to combat climate change.

She said: “The reason behind planting trees is so that we can help to alleviate the global challenge of climate change at a local level. A recent United Nations programme reported that 89 per cent of young people said they wanted to help make a difference to climate change.

“Also, lockdown and being inside for so long has had an impact on students’ mental health – the latest MIND report 59 per cent of young people said their mental health had suffered because of lockdown.

“By planting trees we’re then not only helping mitigate combat climate change, but it also gets the students out into nature and helps with their wellbeing and mental health.”

Lana Williams, Jessica Spink, Holly Ashford, Rosie Pilling, and Autumn Barras planted a silver birch sapling

Hummersknott Academy was one of 20 schools chosen by the Tree Council from 92 applicants nationally to take part in the project and receive funding from M&G Finance to plant new saplings.

Student Rosie Pilling said: “We’re really pleased to be helping the environment, and having outdoor time really helps our wellbeing. It’s also just a nice thing to do – particularly instead of maths!”

The students dug the holes for the trees themselves, drove in support stakes, and watered and fed the young trees before installing chicken wire to protect the saplings from damage.

IT Technician Jake Smith (right) stepped away from the computer to help Amam Agarwal, William Nichols, and Harsimran Singh plant their tree

Principal James Keating said:

“We take our students’ wider learning very seriously at Hummersknott and it’s wonderful to see the pupils supplementing their classroom learning by getting their hands dirty with practical, down-to-earth lessons like this.

“We’re very grateful to The Tree Council and M&G Finance for supporting this project, and I’d like to commend the students and staff who worked so hard to add this new life to our school grounds.”