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Welcoming a new red oak at NCES

NORTH CANAAN — Students, faculty and staff at North Canaan Elementary School gathered around a big old stump outside the school on Arbor Day, Friday, April 30, to plant a red oak and celebrate the opening of the NCES Children’s Arboretum.

The school has celebrated Arbor Day by planting a tree for the last 20 years. Under the guidance of Tom Zetterstrom, a North Canaan Elementary School graduate and founder of Elm Watch, the school has carefully added native trees over the years. The red oak joins the Collection of Oaks, which includes a pin oak, shingle oak, scarlet oak, bur oak and white oak already in residence on the campus.

“This oak was an acorn 10 years ago,” Zetterstrom said. “When you fifth-graders were born, this tree was born.”

Zetterstrom went on to explain the significance of the red oak to the native landscape.  He said it is one of the dominant trees in the hills around North Canaan. It is the fastest growing of the oaks and can grow to be 70 to 90 feet tall and live 150 to 300 years. He said that colonists found red oaks that were 6 feet in diameter.

Zetterstrom also shared memories of planting a tree at the school when he was a student in the 1950s.

“The lesson in this is, if you do something long enough, it amounts to something,” he said.

The arboretum includes 35 trees, which have been mapped out and labeled with signs donated by Tallon Lumber. Robin Cockerline of Whippoorwill Farm in Lakeville drew the map, which will be posted in the school’s main lobby.

“It’s been a pleasure and an honor working with Tom,” Cockerline said. Zetterstrom presented Cockerline with a scarf decorated with leaves and the school gave her a potted palm.

The students participated in the Arbor Day celebration by sharing songs and poems. The kindergarten, first- and second-grade classes led the school in “The Tree Song.” Then students from the fifth-grade shared tree-themed poems. The sixth grade was recognized for creating a bulletin board with information about the arboretum’s trees.

Class representatives each spread a bucket of mulch around the new tree. North Canaan Selectmen Charles Perotti and Susan Clayton then watered the tree.

The ceremony ended with a song, “America the Beautiful,” and a word of thanks from Principal Rosemary Keilty to all those who helped create the arboretum.

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