By Katie Demeria
FRONT ROYAL -- Many of the purple trees that have been blooming throughout the area lately are redbuds. And several of the trees at Happy Creek Arboretum are hawthorns, which originated in England.
Students from the Apple Dumpling Daycare and Learning Center learned some of these tree facts when they visited the arboretum on Tuesday, which was Earth Day.
The Front Royal/Warren County Tree Stewards held the event as part of their many educational pursuits, according to President Sandy Wilson. It was well timed -- Friday is Arbor Day, and on Saturday Front Royal will celebrate its trees, Wilson said.
At 9 a.m. Saturday at Happy Creek Arboretum the Arbor Day Proclamation will be read and the stewards will plant a new tree.
But the center's 4 and 5 year olds' tree education started on Earth Day. According to their teacher Karla Scolerie, the trip is part of their "Better the Earth" program.
David Means, member of the Tree Stewards and certified arborist, taught the children about the trees. He explained the types of leaves and the different benefits of trees.
Means said he thinks it is very important to teach children about trees because people benefit from them every day -- even if they do not know it.
"Trees are living creatures, just like you and I," he said. "To take care of trees is to be aware of the fact that they are living and that we have to be careful with them."
In obvious ways, trees provide lumber to create paper and build houses, Means said. But they also clean out the air when they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen.
He described them as a natural filter. Trees tend to reduce air pollution because particulates will end up landing on them.
"It's like a filter on a furnace or air conditioner which is taking out that dust before it enters those piece of equipment," he said.
The direct benefit to towns is especially evident during the hot summer months, he added.
"The benefits of shade in a hot environment is very important to maintain the cooling of our towns and cities, where often the concrete and asphalt will often create more heat because they absorb the sunlight, and it's held within the soil, where trees will then modify that through the shade," Means said.
He added that almost all forms of wildlife depend on trees, as well, even those within cities and towns.
"Without trees and without the living plants, the wildlife would not survive -- including ourselves," he said. "Throughout man's history trees have always been a source of spiritual inspiration, and they give great moments of awareness, I would say, to people as they sit amongst the trees."
For another member, Melody Hotek, becoming involved in the tree stewards organization was a good way to connect with the community.
Not only are the tree stewards involved in the Arbor Day celebrations, but they also hold many education events throughout the year. Hotek said they provide upkeep to the trees around town, as well.
Hotek said trees have meant something to her all her life.
"Trees are inspiring, I was an art major and I don't know how we would ever live without them," she said. "They fill your soul."
Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org