April 19, 2017

Arbor Day Celebrations Teach Children to Care For “Community Forest”

Third graders from all five of Princeton’s elementary schools are spending some time outdoors this week and next. They are learning what it takes to plant a tree and С more importantly С keep it healthy.

It’s all part of the annual commemoration of Arbor Day, which is officially April 28. Saving trees is a particularly relevant issue in Princeton, where emerald ash borer beetles have been destroying ash trees across the area. The Princeton school events began Tuesday morning at Princeton Charter School and will wind up Friday, April 28 at Johnson Park School.

Focusing on the young is the key to ensuring the future of Princeton’s “community forest,” said Lorraine Konopka, the town’s arborist. Ms. Konopka, Mayor Liz Lempert, members of Princeton Council and the Shade Tree Commission are among those who will be on hand to help children plant Cercis candensis trees, better known as eastern redbud, on the grounds of each school.

“We want to introduce children to the idea of taking care of our earth where we live,” Ms. Konopka said. “Kids have to realize that trees need to be cared for, that you have to water them and replant them.”

Each child will be given a small Norway spruce seedling to take home and plant. The tree crew from Princeton’s
Public Works department will be on hand to demonstrate the bucket truck (“always a big hit,” Ms. Konopka said), and what they do to care for trees. With existing eastern redbuds just blooming now, the children will be able to get a look at what the trees they plant will look like if given proper care.

The American celebration of Arbor Day dates from 1872, when J. Sterling Morton introduced the concept to the United States and planted an estimated one million trees in Nebraska, according to the National Arbor Day Foundation. By 1920, more than 45 states and territorial possessions were celebrating Arbor Day. It is marked today in all 50 states.

The schedule of plantings is as follows: Thursday, April 20, 11:15 a.m. at Littlebrook School with Councilman Tim Quinn as guest; Monday, April 24, 10 a.m. at Riverside School with Mayor Lempert, Mr. Quinn, and Councilwoman Heather Howard as guests; Thursday, April 27 at 10:15 a.m. at Community Park School with Ms. Lempert as guest; and Friday, April 28, 9:30 a.m. at Johnson Park School with Mr. Quinn and Councilwoman Jo Butler as guests.

Ms. Konopka is hoping to impress upon the youngsters at each school that the plantings need year-round care. She will encourage them to come and water the trees they have planted during the summer vacation.

“It’s about what we have to do to take care of our community forest, which is what we live in — we don’t live in the woods,” she said. “The message is that it doesn’t take a whole lot. But you have to be aware.”