Elementary students from Montezuma County moved their Arbor Day celebration indoors on Thursday, but kept the focus on the outdoors.
The city of Cortez, which is recognized as a Tree City by the Arbor Day Foundation, marks the holiday every year with a monthlong poster and poetry contest for fourth-graders, followed by an awards ceremony.
On Thursday, the winds in Cortez were blowing at more than 30 mph, so Parks and Recreation staff held most of the event inside the Cortez Recreation Center. But after contest winners were announced, some students went outside for a hands-on lesson about trees.
The celebration started with ice cream, a speech from Colorado State Forest Service member Ryan Cox about the history of Arbor Day and a tree trivia quiz for the students. Then recreation supervisor Rosa Dimon announced the contest winners, each of whom chose a cash prize or an Osprey pack.
The contest theme this year was “Trees and Me,” so many of the students drew pictures or wrote about a tree they knew. Grace Myers, who won the poster contest for Lewis-Arriola Elementary School, drew her family’s peach tree.
“Since I like reading, I drew myself reading a book under the tree and the tree giving me shade,” she said.
Fourth-grade classes from Kemper, Lewis-Arriola, Mancos, Manaugh, Mesa and Pleasant View elementaries participated this year, and each school produced a poster winner.
Sarah Sparks, of Mancos, won the overall poster prize. The other poster winners were Josh Yarbrough of Kemper, Brooke Jabour of Mancos, Adrian Sanchez of Manaugh, Dylan Erickson of Mesa and Tianne Nielson of Pleasant View.
Aysia Mathews, of Mancos, won first prize for her poem, which she read aloud. It ended with, “Trees are small, trees are tall, trees are for us all.”
Angelique Alcantar, a Kemper student, won second place in the poetry contest.
The winning posters and poems will be on display in the Rec Center throughout May.
After the winners were announced, some students went outdoors to learn about wildfire safety from Smokey Bear and the U.S. Forest Service. Others played “tree jeopardy” with volunteers from the Montezuma School to Farm Project or participated in other hands-on lessons.
At the end of the afternoon, each student went home with a tree of their own to plant.