By: Nalee Vang, Communications Intern
“Arbor Day is just a reminder for them to plant a tree, to help the environment”
Arbor Day is a nationally celebrated observance day that encourages tree planting and care. Founded by J. Sterling Morton in 1872, it is celebrated every year on the last Friday in April. Here at Keep Akron Beautiful, we have been celebrating Arbor Day for over 20 years.
Pam Ray, the woman behind it all, is our Education Specialist at KAB. Known as “The Tree Lady” by students, Pam has given seedlings to every public, charter and private school fourth grader in the City of Akron for 26 years. Students not only receive complimentary seed packets but also pencils made from denim and recycled currency for answering questions in a format Jeopardy game. “The most important thing about Arbor Day that we, at KAB, would like for students to know is that trees are very important to their lives,” Pam said. “Without them, they would not be able to live and breathe, and Arbor Day is just a reminder for them to plant a tree, to help the environment.” Year after year, fourth graders have proven that they are not too young to learn about this very important day. “We chose fourth graders because we felt they are mature enough to fully understand the importance of trees and their duties; they reduce air pollution, conserve energy and also add beauty and color to the world,” Pam said.
Although an event as big as this one can be exciting and fun, it is also a detailed process that requires hard work and a lot of organization in order for it to occur. First, all schools, administrators, principals and teachers must be contacted via email, letters and phone calls. Next, we have to go over all details about our program and schedule presentations to go into the schools. Then, we must order the trees (seedlings) and contact seniors and volunteers to help pack and deliver them to the schools.
Now, that’s a lot of work, but it doesn’t stop there! We also have an Arbor Day Slogan Contest, in which we choose a statement about trees, and have students write a slogan in 10 words or less. Then, five judges will choose the three best slogans to win a tree donated by local landscapers. We help plant the trees on Arbor Day and the Mayor is always present to help the first place winner. “The success of the program is organization and caring people who not only love Akron, but also love the people of Akron, especially our youth,” Pam said.
Since we have been celebrating Arbor Day for such a long time, there have been quite a few changes to the program. “We have come a long way since 1989 when I first started,” Pam said. From PowerPoint presentations to viewing slides from a Smart Board digital screen, technology has also played a huge part in the success of it all. Teachers are given an evaluation after each presentation which allows them to give us feedback, suggestions and any new ideas they may have. At the end of each season, an overview is done to correct any mistakes and review, or add ideas that may work for the program in the future.
“I love students; they know if you’re a real believer of what you’re speaking about” Pam said. “I love their reaction to slides they viewed and places they have visited.” Arbor Day gives students a chance to learn all about trees so that the next time they see that tree, they can remember and know what they learned with “The Tree Lady”.
How about you? Do you remember Pam’s presentation about Arbor Day when you were a fourth grader? Share your story with us!