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Astoria school honors Bette Midler

Although the Divine Miss M did not appear at the birthday party held in her honor at PS 84 in Astoria last Thursday, the student body still celebrated with singing, a cake and a gift both they and the environment could enjoy.

In honor of Bette Midler’s birthday, the MillionTreesNYC initiative and PS 84 at 22-45 41st St. planted nine trees on the school grounds. MillionTreesNYC is a project formed between the city and the New York Restoration Project, a nonprofit created by the singer and actress. Midler turned 65 Dec. 1, and the tree planting was originally planned for her birthday but was rescheduled due to the rain.

“Bette Midler teaches us all by her example,” said Tony Loverso, assistant principal for PS/MS 84, of the entertainer’s philanthropy. “We as educators know that great teaching happens when we model for our students and one another.”

Faisal Al-Juburi, vice president of MillionTreesNYC, said the program hopes to plant 1 million trees across New York City by 2017. Since 2007, it has planted 410,000 trees, 1,000 of which have been on city Department of Education property.

“We’re aiming at planting at all New York City DOE properties,” Al-Juburi said.

Al-Juburi said these tree plantings are usually funded by private donors such as The Home Depot, the bank BNP Paribas, Toyota, Bloomberg Philanthropies and the David Rockefeller Foundation.

This is not the first green project for the Astoria school. Loverso said the school created an outdoor classroom a few weeks back, which includes a few benches beneath a large tree.

“This is a continuation of that project,” Loverso said.

He said he hoped more trees could be planted on the grounds in the future.

About 20 students participated in the project. Loverso said they helped clear some old shrubs in front of the green space outside the building to be replaced with trees. They also created a birthday card and a poem in Midler’s honor. The 20 students were joined by the rest of the student body in singing “Happy Birthday” and the recording will be sent to Midler.

In addition to the tree planting, MillionTreesNYC will also host the program RespecTree at the school, a three-month intensive project in which the fourth- and fifth-grade classes at the school will learn how to be environmental stewards, Al-Juburi said. The school will also be part of a new program that MillionTreesNYC will roll out, which will give teachers the tools to integrate environmental education into every day programs.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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