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'Lovely' trees, curious students usher in Arbor Day

What better way to start this tribute than with the poem by Joyce Kilmer.

"I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree," Huntington Beach Tree Society member Annie Anderson read, leading a group recitation at the Golden View Elementary School farm in Huntington Beach on Tuesday.

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Apparently not wanting to be left out, the farm's roosters crowed, ringing in the morning.

The occasion was a tree planting ceremony in commemoration of Arbor Day, the annual spring celebration of trees typically observed nationally in late April.

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Teacher Susan Fox's class of about 15 kids gathered at the campus' 2-acre farm, also known as the Student Environmental Learning Facility (SELF), where pigs, turkeys, ducks, geese and turtles, as well as a garden bed for each classroom, add to the school's unique educational approach.

Love for trees was the message of the day.

Following speeches by the event organizers, the kids each grabbed a plastic cup filled with worm droppings, which act as a fertilizer, and headed over to the arbor area of the farm, where eight new fruit trees had been planted by the tree society over the past few months.

The kids dropped the fertilizer into the plots and watered the new growth.

"It was so fun," said Mirna Metry, 10. "My favorite part was pouring the water into the plant."

Dante Banos, 9, said he also enjoyed watering the plants because "it helps them grow." He said trees are important because "they give food and oxygen."

"It helps them and they help us," said Grace Marquez, 10.

Brett Hardy, the school's principal, said after the event that the school has been trying to more fully integrate the farm into the curriculum and he was glad to partner with the tree society on this project.

The Golden View farm opened with the school in 1972 as a way to provide kids with more hands-on learning. The farm has a barn, a chicken coop, a vegetable garden, an arbor, a fenced area for goats and sheep and lots of open space for the animals to roam.

With the help of Dana Prante, the farm manager, the students take care of the animals and plants. Fox's class works on the farm once a week.

Some kids said Tuesday that they especially like feeding vegetables to Mr. Tortoise, a large tortoise that patrols the grounds of the plot. But, if you're not careful, the cantankerous reptile does bite, according to the kids.

Prante said the kids tend to name the animals. Other farm regulars are Flip Flop the goose, Shirley the pig and Ethel, an adventurous goat that was rescued from the streets of Long Beach.

The Huntington Beach Tree Society set its sights on the school's farm a few months ago, according to member Shirley Knopf.

Knopf said the society members worked about 600 hours over several months with local high school students to beautify the farm, including removing dead trees, planting the new fruit trees and mulching the area to improve the health of the soil.

Jean Nagy, founder of the tree society, said the entire project was funded by about $3,000 from the group's donation pool.

Nagy has said that working with children is an important component of the society's mission, and she hopes to instill a love in them for the environment and the city.

"We always try to connect every tree we plant in the ground with a child," Nagy said in an earlier interview.

According to the Ocean View School District website, Golden View is an open-plan school, in philosophy and structure, that promotes the easy sharing of teaching strategies, ideas and materials.

Twitter: @benbrazilpilot

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