Arbor Day was celebrated in Sanibel on January 21 with what could only be considered as 'tree-mendous" enthusiasm of 3rd Graders from the Sanibel School.
In 1872, J. Sterling Morton of Nebraska, concerned by the dusty and erosive realities of life on the windy plains, convinced his state's Board of Agriculture to set aside a special day for the planting of trees. That bit of salesmanship led to the planting of more than one million trees, and the creation of an annual holiday that spurred just as many smiles among those attending this year's ceremonies at the school.
There was music and song, readings of essays and poetry, and students shared a little of what they had learned in their teachings on trees.
Elementary students exhibited enthusiastic appreciation for trees after planting one in conjunction with Arbor Day Ceremonies held last week at Sanibel School.
Ben Arensman shared details about the importance of Sanibel's mangroves, noting their importance in protecting the island from the elements. "Without the mangroves Sanibel could wash away during storms," said Ben.
Caroline Holtz provided some insight as to how trees are beneficial to all people.
"A single tree creates enough oxygen in a year for two humans," she said.
When I think about the trees on Sanibel, it makes me think about fresh fruits," remarked Evan Rose. He proceeded to list such fruits as mangos, limes and lemons. He also noted how his neighbor's have a few star fruit and grapefruit trees.
His remarks were followed by Jake Gibson, who said, "Sometimes, neighbors want to be left alone." He went on to explain how trees allow for "good privacy between houses."
Kaden Taylor noted some other applications. "If trees didn't exist, neither would tree houses nor tire swings," said Kaden
Quillan Welsh said he never realized the amount of things trees do until his mother made him do a Google-search on trees. "One job trees do," advised Quillan, "is clean the soil by absorbing dangerous chemicals ... Trees also control noise pollution, especially around big cities. Sanibel is not a big city, but it does have many trees."
He further explained how trees can lower heating costs in the winter by up to 30 percent by blocking the wind and decreasing snow drifts, "which we don't see a lot of in Florida," he noted. As for summer months, he said the shade from trees help cool homes therein lowering air conditioning costs. A potential prospect of the real estate industry, Quillen also informed, " Trees increase your property values by up to 15 percent because they add beauty to your home."
Students went to offer some other fascinating insight on trees, including the fact that the very first Banyan tree planted in the United States was done by none other than Thomas Edison, They also noted how one-third of the world's total land area is covered by forests. And here's a fascinating tidbit shared by one student; a wooden pencil, made from a tree, is capable of writing some 45,000 words, or, for those more artfully-minded, can draw a line that is approximately 35 miles long.
But for all the speeches and reading of essays, the children were especially enthusiastic when it came time to plant a tree in honor of Arbor Day. Many took turns, scooping up a shovel full of dirt to fill a hole where a slash pine was planted.
This particular planting will be followed with the planting of others, with help from Richard Finkel of the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF). School Principal Barbara Von Harten told an audience of parents, city workers and community representatives that the planting of trees is a component of student's science curriculum, and through the assistance of SCCF, students will be monitoring growth and learning about how to care for the plants.
She also expressed appreciation to the donor of this year's official Arbor Day Tree, in this case, a gift made by one of this community's most respected, if not recognizable, doer of good deeds in Dick Muench.
In thanking Muench for his support, Principal Von Harten also credited him for helping to create the student's sports fields and the building of the snack shack. "It seems fitting that Mr. Muench is here helping us plant today's tree," said Von Harten with a smile. "It is possible that a few trees were removed to create the play field, but today, he's here to help us replace one that was lost," she joked.
Local Arbor Day activities follow a twenty year tradition of tree plantings coordinated by Berdenna Thompson of Sanibel. "Anytime you can plant a tree, it is good for the earth and people too," says Berdenna. A retired teacher who moved to Sanibel from Michigan some 21 years ago, Berdenna has assisted in a lot of planting over the years, but not just your average 'ol tree. The varieties that have grown in Sanibel started as seedlings, which are off-springs of some more famous fauna. These include: The Treaty Oak (donated by the Dupont family of the City of Jacksonville where the Mother Oak served as a site where Indian treaties were signed; President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Live Oak, so named after a tree at New Orleans City Park where he announced programs to expand the creation of public parks in 1932; and the Ray Charles Live Oak, named after the parent tree which stood at the St. Augustine School for the Deaf and Blind that Ray Charles attended in his youth.
Berdenna says she is especially happy to see kids so involved with the Arbor Day. "When people are young, it is easier to teach them things like appreciation for nature, those lessons are easier to instill early-on. This helps them get on the right track."