BELMAR, NJ — For 12 years, it’s been an annual tradition at Belmar Elementary School. The fourth-grade class assists the borough’s Shade Tree Commission in planting the Arbor Day tree on the school grounds.
But during these days of home instruction and social distancing, the 13th annual event proceeded a bit differently on April 28. Instead of taking their turns shoveling dirt into the hole for the tree’s planting, the students left the project to the professionals as they watched live during a Zoom online class.
“Arbor Day is a national holiday to recognize the importance of trees. And the most common way to celebrate is to get together to plant trees,” commission member Greg Glezman told students in the live video from the front lawn of the Main Street school. (See video below.)
“Traditionally, Belmar Shade Tree Commission plants trees with the fourth-graders in town. Unfortunately you can’t be here with us to plants these trees, but we want to plant the trees for your classes regardless,” he said, referring to “their” Valley Forge elm tree and the other that would be planted on the banks of Silver Lake for the fourth-graders at St. Rose Grammar School.
Leading the planting process, tree expert Kevin Gahan explained the step-by-step process, assisted by Shade Tree Commission member James Sharrock, and Public Works employees Christopher Emmons and Colton Hines.
The remote Arbor Day lesson was incorporated into the fourth grade’s science curriculum, with photos of the Zoom session also being uploaded for students to view later, according to BES teacher Megan Winchester.
“We discussed the history of Arbor Day ‘stemming’ back to Nebraska when J. Sterling Morton began planting trees and being an advocate for all trees,” Winchester said, adding that the official holiday was pronounced on April 22, 1885 in Nebraska, which was Morton's birthday.
The students also played a Kahoot distance learning game on Arbor Day, answering multiple choice questions on the holiday, which this year was officially celebrated on April 24.
“Thank you to the Shade Tree Commission for this amazing gift,” Winchester said, speaking on behalf of the entire fourth-grade class and the school.
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