On February 9, 2017, East Georgia State College’s Tree Campus Committee held an Arbor Day Celebration. They invited local elementary school students to campus to participate in the tree planting and learning activities centered around Arbor Day.
Dr. David Chevalier, Interim Chair of Biology at EGSC, and Shawn Diddie with the Georgia Forestry Commission presented information for 25 students from Swainsboro Primary School. The students helped plant the tree, a birch, by shoveling dirt, watering the tree and placing mulch around it. They also enjoyed activities designed to teach them what products were made from trees with help from Erin Youmans of the Magnolia Midlands GYSTC program.
“I learned that bubble gum comes from trees!” said one student from Andrea Lamb’s ESOL class.
Another student commented, “We got to use real shovels to put dirt around the tree!”
The birch, which was planted next to EGSC’s Ezra Pond on the Swainsboro campus, was placed in honor of Dr. Willie D. Gunn, EGSC’s longest-serving president. Dr. Gunn retired in 1993, but is still a very active part of the college community.
“It was an honor to recognize Dr. Willie Gunn for his seventeen years of service as the President of East Georgia State College during the Arbor Day Celebration event. His leadership guided this college from its humble beginnings and set it on the path to becoming a leading institution in access education in the State of Georgia,” said Dr. Jimmy Wedincamp, Dean of the School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, who recognized Dr. Gunn during the Arbor Day ceremony.
A plaque was placed at the tree by Helen Center, a member of the Tree Campus Committee at EGSC and part of the Glad Garden Club in Swainsboro.
“I was well pleased and very honored to be the recipient at this special event,” said Dr. Gunn. “Many thanks to EGSC for planting this tree in my honor. The display and setting is pleasant and beautiful.” He also stated that he enjoyed sharing the event with the students.
“It was such an honor for my ESOL students to be actively involved in Dr. Gunn’s dedication,” said Lamb. “Each student participated in shoveling dirt, watering and placing mulch around the tree. They learned that many things they use every day come from trees and how important trees are to their every day lives. They were so excited about the activity-filled backpacks and the tree that EGSC sent home with them. The tree will always be a special reminder of the ceremony in which they were able to participate.”
Diddie and the Georgia Forestry Commission’s Emanuel County Unit provided each student with a redbud tree seedling to take home and plant in honor of Arbor Day, and the students were very excited to take them home and help them grow.
“Ms. Andrea and her ESOL students talked about their experience for the rest of the day,” said Maribeth Clark, SPS Principal. “I’m sure they got home and shared their special trip to EGSC with their siblings and parents. It meant so much to these children. One tree was planted, but many seeds were planted in the minds of these students—seeds that we hope will inspire them to continue their education at EGSC.”
“This event is the first step towards the development of a comprehensive plan to improve the management of the forests on the EGSC campus and design outreach activities to teach students from surrounding primary and middle schools about forests, as well as educate them on their importance,” said Dr. Chevalier.
This event was part of EGSC’s efforts to be named a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation. This program helps colleges and universities around the country establish and sustain healthy forests.