COLTS NECK, NJ: In honor of Arbor Day and Earth Day, the Colts Neck School District ran many programs to actively engage students in honoring and taking care of the Earth. Monmouth County Freeholder Lillian Burry, Police Chief Santucci, members of the Shade Tree Commission and the Colts Neck Police Department joined the students, teachers and principal, for a tree planting ceremony. Everyone gathered on the side lawn of the Colts Neck Conover Primary School to begin the festivities.  Principal Tricia Barr commented, "This day is so special for the children to learn how they can make simple changes to protect and care for our beautiful earth."

The event began with the children dancing and singing songs about trees and the earth, lead by their energetic music teacher Mr. Willis. You can watch a short clip below. 


Principal Tricia Barr welcomed everyone and spoke about the history of Arbor Day dating back to 1872, a holiday that originated in Nebraska, to celebrate nature and plant trees. Principal Barr and Freeholder Burry, each with a shovel in hand, ceremoniously planted the new tree as the crowd cheered them on.

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Freeholder Burry wished everyone a Happy Arbor Day and presented an official proclamation from the county of Monmouth describing Arbor Day. The proclamation also stated that Conover School is part of Tree City USA, a national program for 'greening' communities across the country. Children lined up to make special announcements about Arbor and Earth Day and to also tell a few 'tree jokes' to get the crowd laughing. Jokes like; "How do trees access the internet?" "They log on!"  It was a great outdoor event and the warm sunny weather made it perfect  for an Arbor Tree Planting Ceremony. Guests at the event received a sapling to take home to plant their own new tree.

That was only the beginning... TAPinto also had the fortunate experience to visit the exciting colorful classroom of Ms. Debra Steele, the Innovation Lab and Technology teacher for Conover Primary School.   Steele comments, "Since the 1970's I've been 'Reducing Reusing, Recycling and Repurposing (the 4R's), so earth day is a natural for me and also an exciting time to share what I love.  It's how I live my life everyday and it's how I teach with my students by example every day. I teach them we need to be mindful of our our earth, things aren't looking too great on Mars! We have a great example of here of a mother who received a sapling to plant in honor of Arbor Day when she attended school here. She planted the sapling all those years ago and now her daughter plays under that tree at her grandparent's home."

Walking into Steele's innovative lab is more  like entering a crafting room at the Liberty Science Center. There were different stations set up for the students to enjoy a variety of educational experiences all related to the 4R's. There was so much to take in; colorful paper covering the tables for children to be creative with oodles of markers to share, bags of earth for planting, and vertical tower gardens with bright green growing plants. Steele has been teaching for 35 years, 19 of them in Colts Neck School District and for her classroom everyday is a respect earth day. She continues, "Today we are working on a few special projects. We are making spinners out of repurposing CD/DVDs, planters out of repurposed toilet paper rolls, and we are creating mini greenhouses. Frutta Bowls of Colts Neck donated all of the reusable bowls for our students to plant in and we've had an earth day themed poster contest for the students, with the winners awarded with healthy treats from Frutta Bowls."  

Frutta Bowls Colts Neck owner Kristine Garland commented, "The Colts Neck School District is always running educational programs for the students that are also fun, and when we can be a part of that we love to help out. Their earth day initiatives are in line with Frutta Bowls' environmentally conscious company policies, and it's so important to help to encourage that in our young children."  

Frutta Bowls cleaned and collected the thin plastic bowls that are normally disposed of as recycling in their stores.  They supplied each child with a repurposed bowl base to plant their greenhouses.  In Ms. Steele's classroom there is definitely fun education happening. It's not often that a child doesn't love getting their hands in dirt and planting something, so the excitement was high with every child actively engaged. Students lined up to fill the bottom of their plastic bowls as you can see in the video below and the photos.

VIDEO:  Planting the Greenhouses: 


Instructional assistant Mrs. Theo Papasavas was busy in the classroom helping all the kids complete their special projects, "I love these children and you can see how wonderful Ms. Steele is with them. This school is always doing great learning activities.  I've been doing it twelve years now and I really look forward to it every day. What I love most about Ms. Steele's classroom is that she allows her students to get creative, play educational games. You can tell the kids in her classroom are excited to learn and they are really having fun at the same time."  There is so much growing going on in Ms. Steele's classroom. It goes beyond the rich soil and seeds and the tall vertical gardens she grows. There's a special sharing and helping, a community planting together, young minds learning, making new memories to take with them to teach others. Ms. Steele's Innovation Lab is a great place to grow!