Arbor Day celebration has children make believe they’re a tree

  The Homewood-Flossmoor Park District crew
  readies a white oak for planting as part of the
  Arbor Day program for Willow School students.

  (Photos by Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)
 
The first and second graders wiggled and barked and fluttered. It was all part of their pretending to be a tree on Friday, April 27, as they took part in the planting of a tree for Arbor Day, a national day that celebrates trees. 
 
  Willow School children
  moved handfuls of dirt
  to help fill in around the
  tree they planted at Indian
  Trail Park.

 
Cheryl Vargo, manager of the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District’s Irons Oaks Environmental Learning Center, gave the kids an introduction to the white oak they were planting at Indian Trail Park. The white oak is the state tree of Illinois, but unlike most trees, it doesn’t drop its leaves in fall. As spring buds push through, they will move the old leaves off the branches.
 
Vargo went on to explain how the tree will get minerals through its roots, use sunlight and oxygen to make sugar and take in carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen. One large tree can provide a day's supply of oxygen for four people.
 
Then she had a true/false quiz:
  • Trees are doing nothing?  False, trees are going through the paces of growth. They offer shelter for birds and insects and shade for people.
  • Trees are very active? True, trees are constantly working at producing food and giving off oxygen.
  • Trees are quiet? False. If you took a stethoscope to a tree you’d find they are quite noisy, Vargo told the children.
The maintenance crew put the tree in place, and the students lined up single file as one after another they carried a handful of dirt to fill in around the planted tree.
 
  A student gently sprinkles
  dirt around the white oak
  planted at Indian Trail Park
  in celebration of Arbor Day.

 
With that, Vargo took the two classes of Willow School students on a journey she called the tree factory. Each student got a part as they “created” a tree to better understand what’s going on inside the oak they planted.
 
Two girls were selected to represent the heartwood, the very center of the tree that makes it solid and helps to hold it up. They got to thump their chests for heart rhythms. 
 
Next came the xylem. Vargo described its job as that of a straw drawing water and minerals from the roots. Six students began slurping.
 
The cambium is the active, growing part of the tree and makes new cells. These students touched their toes and stretched upward as hard as they could.
 
The phloem takes sugars and nutrients and delivers it to the tree. These students stretched and wiggled their arms.
 
The bark protects the tree. Vargo did her best to get this group of students to put their arms in front of them in a protective stance, but they had more fun barking like dogs.
 
Two students were chosen to lie on the ground to represent the roots, and the final group raised their arms and shook their hands to represent leaves fluttering. 

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