Arbor Day returns to the Block Island School
The Block Island Gardeners have celebrated Arbor Day with the younger students at the Block Island School for decades. This year it was special for a couple of reasons – Arbor Day 2022 was the 150th anniversary of the holiday, and, due to Covid, the local activities were skipped for the past two years.
Each year the sixth grade, under the guidance of teacher Shannon Cotter-Marsella and Kim Gaffett of The Nature Conservancy, plants a larger tree on the grounds of the school. This year it was a magnolia, and the kids planted it right on the front lawn where it joins other trees from Arbor Days past.
Before going back to class, sixth grade was the first group of students to receive the gift of trees from the Gardeners to take home and plant.
Steve Robison, who now is the proud holder of the Boston Post Cane, signifying that he is the oldest island resident, was the master of ceremonies. Assisted by other members of the Gardeners, he gave a brief history of the holiday, which was started by J. Sterling Morton, of the blue box of salt fame, when he was in Nebraska and bemoaned the lack of trees there after being cut down.
This year’s tree was a red maple sapling, which, students were told, is the state tree of Rhode Island. Although the students were each presented with a bare-root sapling, about 18 inches tall, when shown a picture of a mature tree, class after class exclaimed “wow” in unison.
Students in grades Kindergarten through eight were given trees, and although the older ones are familiar with the tradition, the younger students had some interesting questions, and answers to questions asked of them.
When asked about the benefits of trees, some of the answers were: “they let you breathe,” “oxygen,” and “paper.”
The second graders had an interesting little session on invasive species, and when asked if anyone knew of any on Block Island, one quickly raised her hand and said, “green crabs.”
Some of the students in first grade had some concerns about just where to plant their trees. One said: “My house has a big yard, but we don’t own it.” Another asked if he could plant his in a neighbor’s yard as his was too small. Reassuring her students, teacher Laurie McTeague said: “We’ll make a blueprint.”
When Kindergarten was asked if they had any questions about their trees, one student raised her hand high and asked: “Is it deciduous or coniferous?” Teacher Deborah Hart prepared them well.