Monday, January 8, 2018

Arbor Day In Schools

       J. Sterling Morton, once Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture, originated Arbor Day in Nebraska in 1872. His able advocacy of this measure was a marvelous success the first year, and still more each succeeding year. So remarkable have been the results of Arbor Day in Nebraska that its originator is gratefully recognized as the great benefactor of his state. Proofs of public appreciation of his grand work I found wherever I have been in that state. It glories in the old misnomer of the geographies, "The Great American Desert," since it has become so habitable and hospitable by cultivation and tree-planting. Where, twenty years ago, the books said trees would not grow, the settler who does not plant them is the exception. The Nebraskans are justly proud of his great achievement and are determined to maintain its preeminence.
       Arbor Day for economic tree-planting and Arbor Day in schools differ in origin and scope. Both have been erroneously attributed to me, though long ago I advocated tree-planting by youth, and started the scheme of centennial tree-planting, offering a dollar prize, in 1876, to every boy or girl who should plant, or help in planting five "centennial trees"; still the happy idea of designating a given day when all should be invited to unite in this work belongs solely to ex- Governor Morton. His great problem was to meet the urgent needs of vast treeless prairies. At the meeting of the American Forestry Association, held at St. Paul in 1883, my resolution in favor of observing Arbor Day in schools in all our states was adopted, and a committee was appointed to push that work. Continued as their chairman from that day to this, I have presented the claims of Arbor Day personally, or by letter, to the governor, or state school superintendent in all our states and territories.
       My first efforts were not encouraging. The indifference of state officials who, at the outset, deemed Arbor Day an obtrusive innovation, was expected and occasioned no discouragement. My last word with more than one governor was: "This thing is sure to go. My only question is, shall it be under your administration or that of your successor?" Many state officials who at first were  apathetic, on fuller information have worked heartily for the success of Arbor Day. The logic of events has answered objections. Wherever it has been fairly tried it has stood the test of experience. Now such a day is observed in forty states and territories, in accordance with legislative acts or recommendation of state agricultural and horticultural societies, of the state grange, or by special proclamation of the governor or recommendation of the state school superintendents, and in some states by all these combined. It has already become the most interesting, widely observed and useful of school holidays. It should not be a legal holiday, though that may be a wise provision for the once treeless prairies of Nebraska.
       Popular interest in this work has been stimulated by the annual proclamations of governors and the full and admirable circulars to state and county school superintendents sent to every school in the State.
       Arbor Day has fostered love of country. It has become a patriotic observance in those Southern States which have fixed its date on Washington's Birthday. Lecturing in all these states, I have been delighted to find as true loyalty to the Stars and Stripes in them as in the North. This custom of planting memorial trees in honor of Washington, Lincoln, and other patriots, and also of celebrated authors and philanthropists, has become general. Now that the national flag with its forty-five stars floats over all the school-houses in so many states, patriotism is efifectively combined with the Arbor Day addresses, recitations and songs. Among the latter "The Star Spangled Banner" and "America" usually find a place. Who can estimate the educating influence exerted upon the millions of youth who have participated in these exercises? This good work has been greatly facilitated by the eminent authors of America who have written so many choice selections in prose and poetry on the value and beauty of trees, expressly for use on Arbor Day. What growth of mind and heart has come to myriads of youth who have learned these rich gems of our literature and applied them by planting and caring for trees, and by combining sentiments of patriotism with the study of trees, vines, shrubs, and flowers, and thus with the love of Nature in all her endless forms and marvelous beauty!
       An eminent educator says: "Any teacher who has no taste for trees, shrubs or flowers is unfit to be placed in charge of children." Arbor Day has enforced the same idea, especially in those states in which the pupils have cast their ballots on Arbor Day in favor of a state tree and state flower. Habits of observation have thus been formed which have led youth in their walks, at work or play, to recognize and admire our noble trees, and to realize that they are the grandest products of Nature and form the finest drapery that adorns the earth in all lands. How many of these children in maturer years will learn from happy experience that there is a peculiar pleasure in the parentage of trees, forest, fruit or ornamental - a pleasure that never cloys but grows with their growth.
       Arbor Day has proved as memorable for the home as the school, leading youth to share in dooryard adornments. Much as has been done on limited school grounds, far greater improvements have been made on the homesteads and the roadsides. The home is the objective point in the hundreds of village improvement societies recently organized. The United States Census of 1890 shows that there has recently been a remarkable increase of interest in horticulture, arboriculture, andfloriculture. The reports collected from 4,510 nurserymen give a grand total of 3,386,855,778 trees, vines, shrubs, roses, and plants as then growing on their grounds. Arbor Day and village improvement societies are not the least among the many happy influences that have contributed to this grand result. by B. G. Northrup, 1909.

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