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Sycamore's Southeast Elementary School first-graders plant Arbor Day tree

SYCAMORE – Southeast Elementary School first-grade teacher Suzy Middleton watched her class help plant a tree Friday near the school playground.

The autumn blaze maple tree, a donation from Poplar Farms Nursery in Waterman, was planted in honor of Arbor Day, a tree-planting holiday traditionally held on the last Friday in April.

“They’ll always look at that and feel proud, because they know they were a part of planting that tree,” Middleton said.

Fred Busse, Sycamore Public Works director, helped with the planting. He said the tree-planting was a requirement for the city of Sycamore to qualify for the Tree City USA Award, which is given by The Arbor Day Foundation.

Sycamore has been participating in The Arbor Day Foundation award program for nine years.

“It’s nice for the kids to plant a tree,” Busse said. “They’ll see it from now until high school.”

The tree will soon sprout bright red leaves and provide shade for students, said Southeast Elementary School Principal Mark Ekstrom.

First-graders are chosen to participate in planting trees because their school curriculum fits perfectly with nature-related efforts. First-graders also will plant produce seeds in June, with crops such as tomatoes and carrots to be harvested at the end of July, Ekstrom said.

“They have more of an understanding of what they can do to help the environment,” he said. “They know plants are a big key to that.”

“This is a new beginning. A new start,” Ekstrom said.

Middleton was asking her first-grade class what they learned about seeds, a topic they have covered in class. One girl explained how apple seeds can become apple trees.

Middleton’s class has also dissected Lima beans and learned that trees are the largest plants. This week, they’ll learn about stems and trunks, Middleton said.

“We’ve got to teach them young,” she said, “so they’ll continue it on as they grow.”

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