Mother Earth must have been pretty pleased April 24th when 1,600 Santa Clara students, teachers, community members and city dignitaries turned out to honor her and accept Santa Clara's 28th Tree City USA award from the National Arbor Day Foundation.
In a change of venue, the dual Arbor Day and Earth Day celebration, held annually on Arbor Day, took place at the city's 52–acre Central Park rather than the Triton Museum of Art as in past years. More than 500 students from Pomeroy Elementary School walked en masse a mile to the park for the celebration, with police escort at intersections. Students from the more distant Briarwood, C.W. Haman, Don Callejon, Scott Lane, Sierra and St. Clare elementary schools, also turned out to honor Mother Earth and her trees.
All 1,600 celebrants filled the circular Central Park main pavilion for the award ceremony, followed by a music performance by ZunZun, a husband and wife performing arts duo that celebrates the environment through interactive songs. The children danced and made hand movements, singing lyrics such as “We're doing the water dance. Gotta Protect the water when you've got the chance.”
“We've been talking about Earth Day all week, and this day is a nice follow–up,” says Pomeroy second grade teacher Monica Grandia.
“Arbor Day is about trees and how we can't survive without Mother Nature. It's really interesting to get to see all these trees and plants all day,” says Grandia's student Gregory.
More than 30 exhibitors, chosen for their environmental messages, provided students with information and activities such as planting corn and beans in plastic pots and making chalkboard planter stands. A catered lunch was provided for the students.
“We're really happy with how the day turned out. We thought we could do it better in Central Park,” says Karin Hickey, Public Works Department co–organizer of the celebration with Lina Prada–Baez.
“This is a good way to bring the community together. We believe in teaching kids while they're young the importance of sustainability and protecting the environment,” says Dave Staub, Deputy Director of Public Works. “Hopefully, they'll take home what they learn and the parents can learn from the kids. And the kids can pass it on to their kids eventually.”
The Tree City U.S.A. award is presented only to cities that have effective tree care programs that include an integrated pest management system, increased tree plantings, continuing education for city tree crews, computerized irrigation for landscaping in public rights–of–way and medians, and public environmental education such as the Arbor Day celebration.
The celebration is planned and implemented by the Santa Clara Street Department, Parkways & Boulevards Division; Parks & Recreation Department, Building Maintenance, and Communications Department. Members of the California Conservation Corps assist. It is supported by donations from individuals, local businesses, and service organizations.