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Students, staff at Washington Street Elementary School in Springfield celebrate Arbor Day

Springfield elementary students, residents and officials plant a tree at Washington Street School in honor of Arbor Day.
Caitlin Reardon / NEPM
Springfield elementary students, residents and officials plant a tree at Washington Street School in honor of Arbor Day.

Springfield elementary students celebrated Arbor Day Friday at Washington Street School. The children became their own Johnny Appleseeds and got their hands dirty by helping plant a brand new tree next to the playground.

The city’s Forestry Department, along with local tree-planting nonprofit Regreen Springfield partnered with the school for the event – marking the “Tree City’s 39th annual commemoration of the green holiday.

The Arbor Day Foundation named Springfield as a “Tree City USA” 38 years ago for its efforts in tree care, Forestry Division upkeep and holiday observance.

Local and state officials including Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno and U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, made remarks to the students – who all wore matching bright yellow “Arbor Day” t-shirts – about the importance of tree growth in the midst of a global climate crisis. The students also performed a song and recited original poems on their personal connection to trees.

Neal spoke to the crowd and mentioned that in addition to lawmakers located in Washington or Boston working to solve climate issues, non-politicians, like students and parents alike also make a difference as “we can have an influence on the environment in which we live,” he said.

Neal continued, “And it's the simplicity on a beautiful spring day, like this one where we honor Arbor Day or tree planting. And if you have a moment as students, when you see a beautiful tree, a significant tree, take a moment to stare at it. Thank it for what it does, and remember this – that what you've done today is really important to the world.”

Sarno, who told the kids that he attended Washington Street School in sixth grade, talked about the city’s efforts in planting trees and maintaining urban forestry.

“We're looking for you kids to be the stewards now,” he said.

Principal Keith Asher hopes that by teaching the students earlier how to adapt in the climate crisis, children will go on to learn more ways to help reverse the effects of climate change.

“What we're doing now as a country is definitely trending in the right direction, but there's still a lot of work that needs to be done. So I think the younger that they hear this message, the more impact it will have on them moving forward,” Asher said.

Not only does learning about all-things-green educate children about the effects of climate change and how to nurture the environment, it also gets them excited, Regreen Springfield President and UMass urban forestry professor Dave Bloniarz says: “You look at the kids’ faces and the excitement that they show – that can't be replicated.”

The kids were each sent home with a tree, ready to be planted and tended to.

“Planting a tree is a really great experience. And I recommend everyone do it, especially today,” City Forester Alex Sherman said.

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