Park planner Mark Jarvis, from the city of Billings, posed a question to Burlington Elementary students on Thursday: “Who knows how important trees are? What are they good for?”
Hands flew up among the 318 first- through sixth-graders sitting and standing just outside the entrance of the West Billings school. Oxygen, one boy said. Jarvis agreed.
“One acre of trees supplies enough oxygen for 400 people for a year,” he told his young audience.
Other student answers came fast and furiously: to make paper, maple syrup, houses, firewood.
And for shade, Jarvis added. Under a leafy tree, the temperature drops about 10 degrees, he said.
Jarvis and a crew of four city Parks and Recreation workers came to Burlington Park, next to the school, on Earth Day to plant 10 trees. The trees came through a $700 donation from the local civic group, Sons of Norway.
Members of Sons of Norway also were on hand for a planting ceremony during which students sang songs, recited poetry and helped shovel dirt into a hole for one of the trees nearest the school. Appropriately, the tree was one of two Norway maples.
Other trees the crew planted included two white ash, three firs and three honey locusts.
Sixth-grader Delilah Koch read a poem, “Think Like a Tree,” by Karen Shragg. Trees soak up the sun, dance gracefully in the wind and affirm life’s magic, Delilah read. They emerge renewed at the first signs of spring and stay deeply rooted while reaching for the sky.
Burlington principal Kyra Gaskil said it’s important for kids to learn about the environment every day. The school has emphasized recycling this year, she said, and staff and students recycle everything from paper and aluminum cans to bottles, cardboard and newspapers.
The team of fifth- and sixth-graders learned about recycling and then went into classrooms to teach younger students what they had learned, she said.
On Earth Day, another lesson emerged for both the students and the adults.
“Trees are a legacy to the community,” Jarvis said. “You always plant trees for the next generation.”