In celebration of Arbor Day, a small white oak tree was planted Friday at Emerson Elementary School in Wheaton.
Second- and fourth-graders at the school read poems about trees and sang a song about the environment before taking turns shoveling dirt onto the base of the tree.
Principal Debra Klein said students from the two grade levels were asked to take part because they have been studying plants in class.
"Planting a tree, I think, is a wonderful occasion," Mayor Michael Gresk said. "You're touching the future today because that tree will be here 25 or 30 years from now ... you will be able to come back, bring your children with you and tell them you planted that tree."
Wheaton has been named a certified Tree City USA municipality for 28 years, Gresk said. He presented the school with a Tree City flag and commended the students, the city's forestry division and the environmental improvement commission for their work.
Commission member Kay McKeen told the students about the history of Arbor Day. She said it was started with a man named J. Sterling Morton, who urged people to plant trees in the 1870s.
"He got more than 1 million trees planted in one year's time," she said. "One guy. No copy machines, no fax machines. One guy writing letters to people and newspapers all over our brand new country. Pretty amazing, huh?"
She added that every year, the commission works with the city's forestry division to decide which schools need a new tree. "This tree is going to make oxygen for us and clean the air," she said. "We really need more and more trees."
Kevin Maloney, forestry superintendent for the city, said the white oak was named the state tree of Illinois many years ago by schoolchildren. He said the tree will keep its leaves throughout most of the year and turn shades of red and brown during the fall.
Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 Superintendent Brian Harris expressed gratitude for the donation of the tree.
"It's always a great opportunity to have another tree out on our grounds and to watch it grow over the years," he said.