Arbor Day festivities got started a day early at Washington Park Elementary School during the city of Laurinburg’s celebration on Thursday.
The second graders at the school were treated to an educational presentation from a representative of the city’s beautification department and the winners of the group’s Arbor Day themed art contest were announced as well.
Also during the celebration, Rodney Byrd of the city’s beautification department accepted a ceremonial flag from Neal McRae of the North Carolina Forest Service in recognition of Laurinburg being recognized as a “Tree City” for the 32nd consecutive year.
“The (Tree City) designation was created by the USDA Forest Service in recognition of cities that have an outstanding tree program,” said McRae to the assembly.
In the past the city has celebrated Arbor Day in an area park, and the move to Washington Park Elementary represents a purposeful change, according to Byrd.
“We wanted to get kids involved this year, and give them a tree to have and care for and to be used as an educational tool,” said Byrd, who, with the help of several students, planted a young Japanese Maple tree adjacent to the school building.
Byrd highlighted the importance of proper planting technique through a demonstration that involved students watering the tree and handling a shovel
“How you plant a tree really means a lot,” said Byrd, who hopes the children will take what they have learning home to their yards and neighborhoods.
“The kids here were really all excited over what they learned, and it surprised me how much they had already learned from their teachers before we got here,” said Byrd.
Eight students from the second grade classes at the school were awarded prizes which included a tree related armband and a gift card for their submissions into the school’s Arbor Day art contest, judged by representatives of the city on Thursday.
Gregory Nor, Ashtie Barzinji, Bryant Grubbs, Aislyn Pegues, Mahalia Galbreath, Morgan Stewart, Shamiya Rahmathulla and Ana Huesa were all recognized for the quality of their work.
“They really went all out with these drawings,” said Byrd, who served as one of the judges.
“These weren’t just stick figures.”
Each of the students in the second grade also received a gift bag that included a wooden pencil made from the limb of a tree.
“We really learned a lot about how important trees are to the air,” said second grader Tariah McCrimmon.
“Now I know the right way to plant a tree and to water it, too,” added McCrimmon.
Education of students like McCrimmon through events like the Arbor Day celebration is one of the most important things that the city and the forest service does, said McRae.
“It really is nice to see that future generations care about and understand what Arbor Day means, because it is important that we keep teaching our children about the importance of trees,” said McRae.