JBER students plant a love for trees for Alaska’s Arbor Day

JBER students plant a love for trees for Alaska’s Arbor Day
Published: May. 10, 2023 at 4:20 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - On Tuesday, students at Aurora Elementary School on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson spent their morning getting dirty. The two fourth grade classes, with the help of an expert, learned how to plant white spruce tree saplings in honor of JBER’s Arbor Day.

JBER received Tree City USA recognition due to its year-round commitment to the planting and nurturing of trees. Fort Richardson’s Arbor Day celebrations began in 1995 on Fort Richardson, and in 2000 on Elmendorf Air Force Base. Two decades later, the enthusiasm for trees continues.

“That’s inspiring to me, to see kids wanting to participate in Arbor Day and having such fun with it,” natural resource manager Cayley Elsik said.

Around the country, Arbor Day is celebrated at the time considered to be ideal for planting trees in the region. Florida observes the day in January, but Alaska’s official Arbor Day is the third Monday in May.

Elsik said last year students were able to plant the tree directly into the ground. This year, however, the soil was not ready for planting yet due to the cold.

“It was a little bit of a late winter, the ground really isn’t the right condition to plant a tree in the ground right now, so that’s why we were doing the saplings. We still wanted to plant trees,” Elsik said.

That did not stop the smiles and laughter on Tuesday as students learned how to nurture their own white spruce tree.

“I don’t think that stopped the fun at all. I think the kids really enjoyed getting their hands in the dirt, and it looked like they were having a good time to me,” Elsik said.

However, the dirty part was not everybody’s favorite.

“I don’t feel like it’s that fun squishing down dirt. I’m not a fan of dirt,” fourth grader Leila Thomas said.

Thomas and her classmates potted a little white spruce they named Baby Jimmy.

“And it was actually kind of fun, it felt like I was a family of the plant,” Thomas said.

And like family, these trees will be around for years to come.

“The saplings are going to stay with the classes. They’ll be able to take them and watch them grow. They’ll be able to repot the sapling as they get larger,” Elsik said.

The goal is that as the students grow up, the trees will grow with them.

“Just like real family,” Thomas said.

Elsik says that eventually, the classes will be able to repot their saplings into larger containers before they can be planted around the school and throughout the base.