Hundreds of young Santa Clara children celebrated trees in song, poetry, and laughter at Santa Clara’s Arbor Day and Earth Day Celebration at the tree-ringed Triton Museum Gardens April 26.
Those old enough to count syllables—Ms. Le’s second and third graders at Don Callejon Elementary School—read three-line Japanese haikus that they had written.
“Trees are my heroes. Trees release good air for us. Why do they kill trees?” read Aayush.
“Trees are beautiful. Trees give us nice air and fruit. I love trees so much,” said Lea.
“Roots are underground. Trees blossom—they’re so pretty. Trees give oxygen,” said Swati.
“Trees are so helpful. Trees are important heroes. Trees give us fresh air,” recited Linus.
Kindergartners and first from Don Callejon, Scott Lane and Montague Elementary Schools sang “Under a Shady Tree,” and “We’ve Been Working on Recycling”—to the tune of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”— while children from Briarwood and St. Clare schools applauded.
The morning celebration opened with a pledge of allegiance led by Miss Santa Clara 2013, Molly Crawford, wearing—in honor of the day—a green dress with white polka dots. Regina Fields, second runner up for Miss Santa Clara, sang “The Star Spangled Banner.”
In what has become an annual honor, Santa Clara was presented with its 26th Tree City U.S.A. Award and its 13th Growth Award. Accompanied by Smokey the Bear, Battalion Chief Darrel Wolfe, from the California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection, presented the awards on behalf of the Arbor Day Foundation and in cooperation with the USDA Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters.
“Santa Clara is one of the top Arbor Day cities in the U.S.,” said Wolfe.
Mayor Jamie Matthews accepted the award and told his favorite tree jokes.
“What kind of tree can you hold in your hand?” he asked.
“A palm tree!” shouted the savvy kids.
“Why was the pine tree sent to the principal’s office?” asked Matthews. “Because it was a knotty pine!”
On stage, magician Phil Ackerly and clown Daffy Dave kept the children laughing and cheering. Jazz musician Ike Cosse’s live music had them dancing under the trees. The Santa Clara Kiwanis Club provided a hotdog lunch.
“We want to thank everyone, including all the residents and businesses that provided funds and prizes for today,” said master of ceremonies John Mendoza, acting Street Department director and city arborist. “Trees make a world of difference. Together we can make a difference. We’re doing it one tree at a time.”
Kindergarteners from Scott Lane and Don Callejon Elementary Schools were eager to talk about trees. They carefully spelled their names: Landon, Anaya, Gurleen, Priscila, Sarah, Nickolai, Nimao, Shania, Saanvi, Gauri, Richard, and Katelyn.
“I like that trees are very tall. The redwood is the tallest tree I know.”
“If it’s a hot day, you can sit under a tree, and it makes you cool.”
“I like climbing them.”
“I like trees because they give us fruits.”
“You plant trees to give clean air.”
“They give us oxygen.”
“A coconut tree is my favorite tree.”
“Having fun while you learn, you retain more, and this program does wonders in teaching. This is the age to reach children with life-long lessons. We are molding our future leaders today,” said Mendoza.
The annual Arbor and Earth Day celebration is planned and implemented by the Santa Clara Street Department, Parkways & Boulevards Division; the Parks & Recreation Department, Building Maintenance, and the Communications Department. Members of the California Conservation Corps assist.