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Celebrating Arbor Day under a Shady Tree

“…Under a shady tree, you and me. Lying under a shady tree, you and me. Can you feel the breeze blow by? Can you feel it on your face? This is our special place,” sang the sweet voices of Don Callejon Elementary School’s kindergarten students. They were performing on stage under the blossoming wisteria in the Central Park Pavilion at Santa Clara’s annual Arbor Day and Earth Day celebration on April 28.

For the 30th year, Santa Clara was awarded a Tree City U.S.A. award for its dedication to maintaining the City’s urban forest of trees and educating residents about trees.

“City forests are just as important as forests that aren’t in the city,” said Jim Crawford, Division Chief at the California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection, presenting the Tree City U.S.A. award to Mayor Lisa Gillmor, who honored the day with an official City proclamation.

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The festivities, attended by about 850 students from five Santa Clara elementary schools, featured an on-stage interactive music performance by ZunZun (www.zunzuntunes.com). The husband and wife team wove lessons about the environment into songs and rhymes. They showed that tying a plastic bag into a knot prevents it from flying away and advised, “Tie it, don’t fly it. Birds have wings not plastic things.”

Second grade teachers Beth Stauter and Michelle Tang from the new Central Park Elementary school said that the ZunZun song about planting flowers reinforced a unit on pollinators that their classes studied.

“A pollinator is something like bees,” explained their student Pedro C. “Bees are disappearing fast because of pesticides. And parasites. And human activity. Farmers plant just one crop at a time.”

“I liked the ZunZun show,” said Briarwood Elementary second grader Tara C., sitting under the shade of a redwood tree and having lunch with her mom and classmates. “I liked the movements, the singing and dancing.”

Children learned about the environment at almost 40 exhibits lining the tree-shaded park paths near the pavilion. They touched a snake gently with one finger and dug in the dirt to find earthworms. They escaped through a window of the fire department’s Safety House because, hypothetically, the door was hot to the touch. They posed for photos with a walking tree from Our City Forest.

One class at a time, students participated in a drum circle led by Akoma Arts (www.akomaarts.org).

“This is such a global ethnic community, and we unify the community through drum, dance and song,” said Keith Hames, Akoma Arts executive director. “We’re happy to be able to add balance–a side of our African cultural history–to our Arbor and Earth Day celebration. This is a great event.”

“This is one of the special events that makes Santa Clara unique and is part of the Santa Clara identity,” said Deputy Director of Public Works Dave Staub. “I’m not aware of any other local city that does a combined Arbor and Earth Day celebration. The staff does a great job putting this together.”

As at many of the past Arbor and Earth Day celebrations, Ike Cosse sang and played in his one-man band. He strummed the guitar, played the harmonica and banged two tambourines with his feet–all at once.

“Everybody who comes through here really loves him. They are so happy to see him,” said Ike Robinson, visiting from Dallas. Robinson came to Central Park to walk his friend’s dog, Oliver, but ended up standing under a shady redwood tree listening to Cosse. Kids stopped to listen to Cosse, too–and to pet Oliver.

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Kaiser Permanente

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