“Mother Earth wanted to bless this day so she sent us some rain,” says Santa Clara Councilmember Teresa O’Neill at Santa Clara’s 2014 Arbor Day and Earth Day celebration April 25, as she welcomed the teachers, parents, 120 kindergarteners from Don Callejon K- 8 School, and third graders from Pomeroy Elementary School who were packed inside the Council Chambers at City Hall.
The morning program celebrating Mother Earth, normally held outdoors on the grounds of the Triton Museum at 1505 Warburton Avenue, had been relocated across the street because of rain showers and proceeded without a hint of dampened spirits.
Santa Clara’s 27th Tree City U.S.A. Award, from the National Arbor Day Foundation in cooperation with the USDA Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters, was presented to O’Neill by Jamie Norton, Division Chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Representing the U.S. Forest Service, Timothy Williams shared that the first Arbor Day in 1872, which was the start of organized community tree-planting work, was the result of the dreams of one man—J. Sterling Morton from the treeless great plains of the Midwest.
“Your own dreams and visions are very important. You can change your family, your community, and yourself,” says Williams.
ZunZun, a husband and wife performing arts team that celebrates the environment and cultures of the Americas through interactive music with movement, demonstrated folkloric instruments that made the sounds of water—from the first drops of rain going down a storm drain to the creeks and rivers then to the ocean.
“Doin’ the water dance. Protect the water when you got the chance,” sang the contagiously energetic ZunZun duo (www.zunzuntunes.com).
The children also performed, singing “Under a Shady Tree” and their take on the American spiritual “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”: We’ve got the rivers and the oceans, the trees and the flowers, the air we breathe, the whales and the dolphins, the bottles and the cans.
By then, with a break in the weather, it was time for lunch at the Triton Museum grounds. The children, hotdogs in hand, made the rounds of more than 30 community groups hosting exhibits, from Ulistac Natural Area Restoration Project and the fire and police departments, to the Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter, Slow Food South Bay, and the Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County.
Kindergartener Julia was excited about a tomato plant her mom, a chaperone for the day, had just bought for her.
“I’m going to plant it and take out the seeds and plant some more tomatoes. I’ll keep on planting tomatoes,” says Julia.
The annual Arbor Day and Earth Day celebration, made possible thanks to help and donations from individuals, local businesses, and service organizations, was implemented by various city departments. Members of the California Conservation Corps assisted.
“This celebration is important to the city because it helps us maintain our Tree City U.S.A. arbor status,” states Deputy Director of Public Works Dave Staub. “Our city staff did a tremendous job.”
“This has a huge impact on the children. It stirs lots of conversation about taking care of the earth,” says Don Callejon School kindergarten teacher Brenna Burnette. “We’re so thankful that Santa Clara puts on this great event.”