In observance of National Arbor Day each year, the Tree Board visits fourth graders in Great Bend, gives them each a tree, and encourages them to plant it. Board members made their rounds last Wednesday through Friday, which was the official Arbor Day.
Friday afternoon, Lisa Whipple and Judy Reed spoke to the students of Daniel Klaassen and Laurie Harwood at Eisenhower Elementary School.
“You’ve got to baby your baby tree,” Whipple said. She asked the students questions about how to plant a tree (how deep should the hole be, how to place mulch around the fledgling plant, how much water to use, where should it be planted, etc.).
The tiny, spindly saplings won’t be very impressive at first, she said. In fact, it may take two or three years for them to shine.
That’s the thing about trees, Whipple said. It’s about the future, and in a decade, that red bud will stand strong at around 20 feet tall.
“In 10 years, where will you be?” she asked the kids. The room full of 9- and 10-year-olds will have graduated from high school and be on their way to adulthood.
“That tree you climbed in? Someone planted that years ago,” Whipple said. “Now it’s your turn.”
They talked about the best seasons to plant a tree. “But, the best time to have planted a tree was 10 years ago so we could be enjoying it now, but we can’t go back in time,” Whipple said.
So, the next best time in now. “The next generation will be grateful for what you’ve done,” she said.
The event at Eisenhower Friday wrapped three days of Arbor Day activities involving the Tree Board, Reed said. In that time, they visited all the public and private fourth-grade classrooms in Great Bend.
The board partners with the Kansas Forestry Department to sponsor the red bud tree give-away in which every fourth grader in town gets one of the young trees. Although this program has been around for a long time, this was only the second year Great Bend has taken part.
In addition, the KDF and the board hold a poster contest for fifth graders. This year, Patrick Heath, a student of Joan Henning at Holy Family School, was the local winner and won the KDF Southwest Region prize.
Although he did not win the state honor, he was awarded his original poster in a large frame, an Arbor Day backpack and a tree book. Reed also presented him with a certificate, a state poster featuring all five of the district winners and a check to purchase “something green.”
Great Bend has been involved in the contest for many years, Reed said.
Both the give-away and the contest don’t just happen overnight, Reed said. “It’s an all-spring project for fourth and fifth graders.”
It starts just after Christmas break when the KDF, based at Kansas State University in Manhattan, sends teaching materials to schools.
Arbor Day (from the Latin arbor, meaning tree) is a holiday in which individuals and groups are encouraged to plant and care for trees. It originated in Nebraska City, Neb., by J. Sterling Morton. The first Arbor Day was held on April 10, 1872 and an estimated one million trees were planted that day.
It is held on April 26 each year.
Great Bend is a member of Tree City USA and the Great Bend Tree Board serves as an advisory board to help beautify the city by the planting of approved species. The Tree Board has established a rebate program that can be utilized by the residents of the city and a dead tree removal program that can be utilized by residents.