HANNIBAL — Students from Holy Family Catholic School and Stowell Elementary School teamed up on Friday to help plant a swamp white oak tree with representatives from the Hannibal Tree Board, Hannibal Parks and Recreation and the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Hannibal Tree Board President Kristy Trevathan said children have traditionally planted trees in Hannibal to celebrate National Arbor Day, including in Central Park and on school campuses in past years. The swamp white oak tree joins 11 other trees on the riverfront — seven river birches and four sycamores — which are also known for their ability to “get their feet wet” in the event of flooding.

“We talked to Andy (Dorian), and we said this year, we’ve done a lot in Central Park. We felt because the riverfront had just gotten completed, this would be an excellent opportunity to showcase the new riverfront and talk about the species that are good to plant in an area that will eventually flood,” she said.

Dozens of fourth grade students sat on the grass near the tree, listening to Missouri Department of Conservation Foresters David Vance and Kyle Monroe. Vance talked about the history of Arbor Day, with origins dating back to pioneers settling in Nebraska and the official recognition of the holiday in 1872.

Monroe talked with the students about how trees provide oxygen and consume carbon dioxide through photosynthesis, as well as their beauty and ability to lower a person’s stress. He mentioned another benefit the students enjoyed.

“Won’t it be nice when the tree is big to sit under the shade?” he said.

“Yeah!” replied several students.

The history of Arbor Day was interesting to fourth grade students Elaina Wellman and Collin Steinman from Holy Family School.

“I like learning history,” she said. Collin shared his favorite parts of the event.

“Part of it was I got to learn how Arbor Day got started and how to plant trees,” he said, mentioning he looks forward to the shade the tree will provide as it grows.

Ali Howe, a fourth grade student at Stowell Elementary School, said she enjoyed the chance to get out and celebrate National Arbor Day. She was happy “because I get to walk down here, like I’m kind of on a field trip, when the other kids are at school.”

Students volunteered to take turns shoveling dirt into the hole made by Hannibal Parks and Recreation staff. Next, they learned about how mulch helps the tree retain moisture, then applied the material around the tree.

Mary Lynne Richards, recreation supervisor with Hannibal Parks and Recreation, said the event celebrate the special aspects of trees in Hannibal.

“Trees provide vital protection for the earth’s topsoil from erosion, oxygen and homes for wildlife. They also are a renewable resource that provides a variety of materials for building, fuel and office supplies,” she said. “Trees beautify our environment, provide shade on a sunny day, and improve our quality of life. The day celebrates all these things and aims for American generations to enjoy all the benefits trees have to offer.”

Trevathan encouraged each of the students to come back as the tree grows.

“Hopefully it will be here for years and years to come,” she said.

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