Students of William S. Reyes Elementary School took part in an Earth Day celebration two Saturdays ago, April 27, by planting trees and other vegetation that would help restore the greenery inside their campus that had been swept bare by Super Typhoon Yutu last year.
Earth Day was celebrated internationally last April 22, which fell on a school day this year, hence the school’s delayed observance.
The offices of Reps. Tina Sablan (Ind-Saipan) and John Paul Sablan (R-Saipan) spearheaded the April 27 project, in cooperation with CNMI Forestry, Department of Fire and Emergency Services, Mariana Islands Nature Alliance, Northern Marianas College-Cooperative Research Extension and Educational Services, private citizen Noel Masongsong, and the WSR community.
WSR principal Naomi Nishimura said their faculty, staff, parents, and about 90 students from first to fifth grades participated in the one-day tree planting event. The children learned a bit about the seedlings that they planted.
Nishimura said that Reps. Tina Sablan and J.P. Sablan, as two leaders in Precinct 2, came up with the WSR beautification project. “We lost a lot of our trees after Yutu. This is one of their projects for Precinct 2 where they decided to help our school with our beautification project.”
She added that some of their project partners were at the WSR grounds two days before Saturday’s event to prepare the areas where the seedlings would be planted. “They were here two days prior to this and they were digging holes. One of the first things that they worked on was clearing the flower beds and plant boxes.”
“They also did some major digging for the holes where the trees will be planted. Our ground near the stage, prior to Yutu, had trees surrounding the area and around the perimeter of the field. Now, we started replanting as our way to celebrate Earth Day. In a few months or about a year the plants and trees will grow.”
Sunflowers were planted in the flower beds while vegetables like okra and eggplant, and the herb basil were put in the plant boxes, with green onions and tomatoes to be added soon. Atis, mango, star apple, and Spanish grapes—a new plant the CNMI Forestry is introducing on the islands—were some of the fruit-bearing trees that were planted.
Rep. J.P. Sablan, who is also the floor leader of the 21st Legislature, said this is part of his and Rep. Tina Sablan’s projects for Precinct 2. “We started last month with a cleanup in some of the villages and beaches of Precinct 2. This month, reflecting on World Earth Day, we decided a tree planting while also cleaning up the WSR campus.”
“We are thankful to the CNMI Forestry, NMC-CREES, MINA, our staff, those from the WSR community, and all the volunteers that donated plants and took the time to join us today.”
CNMI Forestry provided the trees and seeds for the vegetables and other crops, while NMC-CREES gave sunflower seedlings. Masongsong, whose hobby is gardening, donated flowers.
“He [Masongsong] reached out to me and my colleague, Rep. Tina [Sablan], and donated his own flower seeds. He told us that he heard about this event so he decided to get in touch with us and donated the flowers,” said Rep. J.P. Sablan.
Despite the nearly weeklong delay in the celebration of Earth Day, the students were still eager to learn about plants and trees, said Rep. Tina Sablan.
“Earth Day was last April 22 but, since it was a school day, we decided to schedule it today. It was a good event and we’re really happy with what we’ve accomplished. You can see the kids really responded and showed up in great numbers. Some parents showed up, as well as the teachers and staff of WSR, and our partner agencies—Fire, MINA, Forestry, NMC CREES. A lot of love went into this project and we’re so grateful for the outcome and turnout of the people who helped. In the years to come, we’re going to see the fruits of our work today.”
She and Rep. J.P. Sablan have been working on other beautification projects in Precinct 2. “We’re just thinking of ways on how to help different areas in our neighborhood to recover. With our first cleanup at Sugar Dock—our way to help clean up the villages and coastal areas—a lot of kids from WSR came and helped pick up trash. And then we realized that the school also needed a lot of [tender loving care]. They lost many of their trees and flowers, so we were thinking of ways to give back. And this seems a good way to help the school as well.”