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Teachers plant knowledge, students plant tree as a way to celebrate Arbor Day

By Jonathan E. Coleman
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While many students around the county celebrated Good Friday by preparing for the Easter weekend and the Spring Break that would follow, third graders at Harrisburg Elementary School held a much different celebration.

Students gathered in front of the school and crowded around a small tree and several child-sized shovels.

Near the tree and shovels was a small wooden stage and several information boards displaying facts about the importance of trees.

The event marked the first time students at Harrisburg Elementary School hard marked Arbor Day, said Tina Pritchard, park program supervisor at Frank Liske Park.

Celebrated since the 1870s, Arbor Day is a chance to remind people about the importance of trees to so many facets of life.

“They are important for us to breathe; they are important for us to stand on; they are important to help control erosion,” Pritchard told the students. “You know why Arbor Day is important. That’s why you’re studying plants and trees.”

It was a lesson that wasn’t lost on students who sang a song entitled “Big Beautiful Planet” as part of the ceremony. Some students prepared poems highlighting the benefits of trees and outlining some of their many uses.

The climax of the short ceremony, however, came as several students circled around a small sapling that soon become a permanent part of the school’s landscape.

“Today we’re planting a Japanese Snowbell tree,” Pritchard told those gathered, which included Cabarrus County Schools superintendent Dr. Barry Shepherd. “That’s a very special tree. There are only two around.”

The other, she explained, was planted at Frank Liske Park Saturday as part of an Arbor Day event there.

Additionally, students were each given a small Red Oak tree to take home and plant.

“You guys are not just going to plant one tree,” Pritchard said. “You’re going to plant almost 200 trees. You’re doing a lot to help out.”

Third grader Carson Smith was excited about the chance to plant her tree, and said she already had a place picked out where she would put it.

“I’m going to put it in the garden I have,” she said.

The History of Arbor Day
Arbor Day originated from the mind of Nebraska journalist J. Sterling Morton, and used his position as the editor of Nebraska’s first newspaper to encourage others to plant trees on the state’s then barren landscape, according to the Arbor Day Foundation’s Web site. 

Originally from Detroit, Mich., Morton and his wife were lovers of nature, so when they made their home in Nebraska in 1854, the couple planted with trees, shrubs and flowers.

The trees were needed as windbreaks to keep soil in place, for fuel and building materials, and for shade from the hot sun.

Morton not only advocated tree planting by individuals in his articles and editorials, but he also encouraged civic organizations and groups to join in. His prominence in the area increased, and he became secretary of the Nebraska Territory, which provided another opportunity to stress the value of trees.

The first official Arbor Day was celebrated in Nebraska on April 10, 1872, according to the Arbor Day Foundation Web site, with prizes being awarded to counties and individuals who planted the most trees. 

An estimated one million trees were planted on that first Arbor Day, spurring other states to plan their own Arbor Day festivities.

Dates, however, for Arbor Day vary across the country, usually depending on the best time for planting trees in a given region.

• Contact Jonathan E. Coleman at [email protected] or 704-789-9105.


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