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Trees planted at county schools
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"Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago" - Les Brown.

Because Arbor Day was established as a day to plant trees and learn about how to care for them, the Georgia Forestry Commission made trees available to members of the Georgia House of Representatives.

Doug Holt, a representative for Newton County, contacted Keep Covington/Newton Beautiful Executive Director Connie Waller wanting to have trees planted at schools in the county.

"Then KCNB made arrangements for taking care of the planting," Waller said.

Trees were planted Tuesday at Middle Ridge Elementary, Newton High, Porterdale Elementary, Ficquett Elementary, Palmer-Stone Elementary and Rocky Plains Elementary.

Each school is responsible for caring for the tree, and students have developed creative ways to water them such as using rain barrels or rinse water from the cafeteria.

Sherril Smith, Palmer-Stone kindergarten teacher, decided it would be beneficial for her students and others in kindergarten to witness the planting of the tree.

"I thought it would be a good idea because they'll be here for the next five years and they can watch it grow," Smith said.

Waller read the students "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein, which is the story of a boy and a tree. As a child the boy climbs in and swings from the tree. As an adult the boy sells the tree's apples, chops its branches for a house and cuts down its trunk to build a boat.

The tree was always happy to give even though the boy did nothing in return for the tree. In the end the boy is old and just wants a place to sit and rest, so the tree straightens up and gives the boy a place to rest on its stump.

 "All trees want to do is make us happy," Waller said.

Waller asked the students what trees gave; their answers included branches for swings, various fruits, leaf piles to jump in, shade for playgrounds, wood for houses and most importantly, oxygen.

"We couldn't even breath without trees, could we," Waller said.

She added trees give birds, squirrels and other woodland creatures homes and supply ingredients for medicine such as aspirin from willow trees.

When Waller asked the students what Arbor Day was about they enthusiastically replied, "trees."

She told them Arbor Day was a day to remember how important trees are to life as well as an opportunity to plant new trees.

Rusty Caldwell of the Newton County Water Resources Department asked the students what trees need to grow. They replied with all the necessary ingredients - water, dirt and sunlight.

"They also need something like pine straw or mulch around them to keep them moisturized," Caldwell said.

He asked for two volunteers to help him pack the dirt around the northern red oak seedling.

"My mother always told me plants can't grow on air so you have to pack it down real well," Waller said.

She told the students the tree would grow strong and tall with proper care.

"Thank you for taking care of this tree," Waller said to the students. "It will take care of you too."

The City of Covington will celebrate Arbor Day at 11 a.m. today on Clark Street by the creek flowing behind Bethlehem Baptist Church. The City of Oxford will celebrate at 10 a.m. tomorrow at the city's first pocket park on George Street between Wesley and Asbury streets.

The City of Mansfield will celebrate their second Arbor Day Ceremony and be recognized as a Tree City at 1:15 p.m. today at Mansfield Elementary School. A tree will be planted in memory of long-time Mansfield teacher Cindy Savage and seedlings will be given to some attendees.