Newburyport students celebrate trees with Arbor Day art

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This year, Arbor Day is Friday, April 29, and fifth-grade students at Edward G. Molin Upper Elementary School are celebrating by creating posters and learning about the value of trees in their community.

“My poster is black and white in the first section with a tree growing in the palm of a hand,” said Emmeline Baptiste. “It gets more vibrant in the second section and at the end is a mature tree with the whole community filled with color.”

Observed on the last Friday in April, Arbor Day is a national holiday created to recognize the importance of trees. To celebrate teachers and fifth-grade students in Massachusetts, enter the annual Arbor Day Poster Contest sponsored by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), the U.S. Forest Service, and the Massachusetts Tree Wardens ‘and Foresters’ Association.

“It wasn’t really on our radar,” said fifth-grade teacher Martha Trail, “until Sheila Taintor from the Newburyport Tree Commission approached us a few years ago. Now every year she comes and introduces fifth year students to “Trees in Our Community” explaining why they are important, how Newburyport as a town manages its trees, how we take care of our trees and why.

Each year a new theme is designed to increase students’ understanding of the importance of a diverse urban and community forest and the role trees play in their community and the world around them. The 2022 theme is “Be a Cool Community, Plant Trees!”

“We’ve talked about ‘being cool’ being a hip person,” Trail said, “but that literally means reducing the heat. If you have more trees, that takes the heat out of the environment and removes carbon dioxide from the air.

“The good thing is that she comes on the Friday before the February holidays. On vacation they think about what their visual will be. The week after the February holidays, each fifth-grade teacher gives three hours in class to work on this subject. After three hours, if the child still feels they need more time to work on it, they can use the weekend.

“At first the ideas started coming in,” Finley Seymour said, “and it was really fun playing around with the ideas and trying to create new ideas with the theme to make it stand out. I used colored pencils and pencil I tried to do a lot of shading to make it stand out.

“My poster has a tree on a hill with different patterns to make it stand out – polka dots, zigzag lines. I had a lot of fun.”

Judging began the following Monday. Classes exchanged anonymous posters and voted. Fourth and fifth graders then voted for the top two posters from each of the seven fifth grade classes. The poster receiving the most votes was submitted to the state.

This year’s winner was Emmeline Baptiste with Finley Seymour in second and Maggie Blaser and Harry Bauer tied for third.

Newburyport fifth year pupil Emmeline Baptiste shows off her award-winning poster for her school's Arbor Day celebration.

“Mine has two hands holding the Earth,” Harry said, “and I added water to make it look cool. It has different types of trees – palm trees and a clump of oak trees. I have used markers and colored pencils. I like to draw but I’ll be honest, I don’t like to color.

Maggie said she liked to paint and draw.

“I create a new work of art every day,” Maggie said. “On one side of my poster the tree is down so it’s all dark and gloomy and it’s coughing because there’s not much air.

“On the right side there is a mature tree, a bouquet of flowers, the sun is up and everything is colorful. It’s different and it’s okay to be different.

The statewide winning posters were submitted to the DCR for final judging. Two years ago, in 2020, Molin’s fifth grade student Emma Burkhardt won first place for the “Trees Please” poster.

This year’s prizes include art supplies, ice cream and a tree for the winner’s school. First place receives a tree planted on the winner’s school grounds (valued at $200) and a certificate for art supplies. Second place, third place and honorable mention winners receive art supplies and many other prizes at a ceremony for all winners. The winner’s teacher also receives prizes that include educational materials to support lifelong learning about forests and natural resource conservation.

Will Edward G. Molin Upper Elementary be a two-time winner? The winners will be announced at the end of April. For more information, visit https://www.mass.gov/guides/annual-arbor-day-poster-contest.

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