STORY BY DANIEL SAENZ
VIDEO BY MARK SCHUCKMAN
In anticipation of Arbor Day, Fort Hays State University partnered with the Kansas Forest Service to host an informational event for second-grade students from Wilson Elementary School.
So what is Arbor Day? According to history, it all began in 1854 when J sterling Morton, a pioneer hailing from Detroit, relocated to Nebraska. Noticing the overall absence of trees that could provide shade and stabilize the soil, Morton took it upon himself to plant his own trees around the house and advocated for others doing the same.
Soon after, on January 4th, 1872, he strongly advocated that there be a national holiday for planting trees on April 10th, which would eventually come to be what is now commonly known as Arbor Day. By 1885, Arbor Day was officially a legal holiday in the United States and was changed to April 22nd, which was Morton’s birthday. In 1989, Arbor Day was eventually moved to the last Friday of April.
Margie Hammerschmidt, one of the speakers at the event, kicked off the information session by relating to young second graders the stories about her childhood and nature.
“One of my earliest, fondest, childhood memories was when I was in second grade, I would beg my older brother, who had a paper route in this area, to wake me up early Sunday morning so I could help him with his route and deliver papers to the memorial union,” Hammerschmidt said.
She also made note of the aesthetic beauty of the nature surrounding this area.
“What I loved about it was being able to ride my bike in the Quad between all of these beautiful trees overhead that formed a canopy with the trees holding hands above you,” Hammerschmidt said. “It is a glorious glorious experience.”
After this small anecdote, she concluded by noting how important it is to nurture and grow more the trees so that other people can enjoy these sights as well and how enjoying nature is what Arbor Day is all about. Shortly after, Henry Schwaller, the current Mayor of Hays, asked the young students about the benefits of planting trees.
Among the various benefits listed were the medicinal value of trees, that they provide oxygen, and that they provide shade. (The second graders clearly did their homework.)
He then asked for a round of applause for the beautification members who helped put together the event as well as the Hays city staff who plant the trees. Schwaller read the brief history of Arbor Day as well as the more specific benefits of trees such as preventing erosion of our soil, cleaning the air, and providing habitat for wildlife. He then urged everyone to observe this holiday.
There were also fun events such as awards from the Kansas Forests Service for the best drawings of Smokey the Bear.
When asked on why this event came to be and why it was so heavily geared towards younger children, one of the representatives from the Kansas Forests Service replied,
“It is important to educate kids about trees and the importance of trees because they are our upcoming generation, so if we don’t teach them, then who is going to know?”