Best known and loved as a symbol of Canada’s national identity, the maple leaf is also the central emblem of an Atlanta elementary school. As part of its renaming and conversion from a middle school, Virginia-Highland Elementary selected a maple leaf as its logo in celebration of a beautiful mature maple tree that has blossomed in its courtyard for 39 years. That tree was planted by then-Canadian Consul General Douglas Stirs in 1984 as part of an adopt-a-school program.
In a nod to that history, Virginia-Highland invited Consul General to the U.S. Southeast, Rosaline Kwan, to help plant a baby Red Maple as part of a planting project on school grounds. Sixty-one trees representing 25 different varieties were planted by dozens of volunteers to revamp an empty two-acre field that previously housed dozens of trailers, however, is now being transformed into a playground and soccer field. The project was sponsored by Truist Bank as well as Trees Atlanta, which works to mitigate Atlanta’s tree loss, protect its forests, and increase its tree canopy.
Located in the bucolic Virginia-Highland neighborhood the school was originally built in 1924 and currently hosts 535 students. The recent redesignation into a middle school transpired due to the neighbourhood’s growing population. The school offers a rigorous course load, including art, music, physical education, media center, technology and an extensive STEAM curriculum for all grades.
The maple tree, with its vibrant autumn colours, has always been a prominent feature of the landscape in the eastern parts Canada. The Indigenous peoples living in these areas valued the maple tree for its sweet sap and the goods derived from it. Of the 150 known species of maple (genus Acer), only 13 are native to North America. Ten of these grow in Canada: the sugar, black, silver, bigleaf, red, mountain, striped, Douglas, vine and Manitoba maples. Maples contribute valuable wood products and sustain the maple sugar industry.