Arbor Day Show at Stafford’s Primary Learning Center Provides Important Reminder About Tree Preservation

May 10, 2017
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Arbor Day was a big deal at the Ronald L. Meinders Primary Learning Center in Manahawkin on April 28. During a day-long celebration of trees, some 66 students joined teacher Stacey Suydam in delivering a strong message about the importance of trees to the worldwide ecosystem and the need to preserve them.

Suydam and the cast of kindergartners provided their version of “The Great Kapok Tree,” a short play adapted from the children’s book written and illustrated by Lynne Cherry in 1990, entertaining and educating students, teachers and parents alike.

“The morning show went great, but I was a little nervous about the afternoon show,” said Suydam, who played the part of Mother Nature – her first time in the role – and narrated the story. “By the afternoon, the students are tired, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. But they did a good job, and it was a lot of fun.”

After a man, played by Jackson Feeney, shows up in the Amazon rainforest, he finds the great tree and begins chopping at its trunk. While on a short break from his chopping, he begins to tire and contemplates taking a short nap. With that, a group of dragonflies – Karolina Colina, Eliana Gamble, Gunnar Myhre, Vickie Wang, Natalie Mathews and Alexis Raines – hover around him, hypnotizing him to sleep.

While he sleeps, the wildlife that utilize the tree for shelter, food and camouflage take the opportunity to implore the man to cut short his plan. First, the slithering snakes speak. Then the bees buzz in his ears, followed by the chattering monkeys, the squawking birds, the chirping frogs and fluttering butterflies repeating the plea “Do not chop it down.” The jaguars growl to him, “Where will we find our dinner?” The porcupines whisper to him, while the anteaters snort to him and the three-toed sloths hum the plea some more: “Don’t chop it down.” Lastly, children from a nearby indigenous tribe follow suit.

After the dragonflies return to wake the man from his slumber, he picks up his ax to continue his chopping. But he stops – remembering the words he had somehow heard – drops his ax and leaves the forest, setting off a celebration.

“My teacher, Mrs. Sinatra, thought I’d be good at playing the man,” Feeney said as the cast took their Broadway bows. “I was OK with not chopping down the tree. They give us food and oxygen.”

One of the dragonflies, Eliana, enjoyed her role as one of the “pretty” insects and the message of the play.

“I liked that all the animals take care of the one, big tree,” she said. “Trees are special. Arbor Day is the day we celebrate them.”

The brief production marked the 20th year the kindergarten classes within the Stafford Township School District celebrated Arbor Day in some way. The Arbor Day show, particularly, has been a mainstay for PLC the past 11 years.

“Watching the kids’ faces light up while they perform is really a special part of all this,” Suydam said. “And the casting was great. Our casting crew picked the perfect animal for each child. I thought the sloths were really cool. It was fun to watch them go very slowly.”

The snakes were played by Liam Surdez, Brandon Mackiewicz, Jack LeBlanc and Joseph Delikat, while the bees were made up of Olivia Heins, Emily Suchojad, Samantha Smith and Ainsley Walkoviak, and the monkeys consisted of Vincent Nunziato, Parker Wilkinson, Alexander Morales-Alarcon, Benjamin Holland, James Diaz and Bryan Foley.

Jalen and Jasmine Applegate, Lucas Glowczynski, Alex Nagy and Thomas Chichanowski were the birds, while Ninette Griffin, Quinn Corbett, Emma Oravets, Kaesan Askew, Landon Nacarlo and Logan Deller played the frogs, and Madeline Fischer, Sophia Kole, Ava Junker, Brynn Angelozzi, Kerri Schoepfer and Julia Cerami comprised the butterflies.

The six jaguars were Declan Sanders, Piper McBrien, Liam MacNaughton, Carly Platt, Christopher Flores and James Vidaurre. The six porcupines were Chase Obropta, Conner Jurgensen, Bryce Deren, Sara Giouzelis, L.J. Cheselka and Chase Dahl. The snorting anteaters were played by Savannah Fischer, Cole Toci, Kinlea Bulgar and Dylan Farruggio.

Maggie Greco, Marley Blasiak, John Scheffler, Garrett Dahl and Joseph Bohner played the humming sloths, and the tribe children consisted of Chance Flatt, Colin Schrock, Trista Platt, Ellison Steinmetz, Lilah Hahl, Calista Cannavo and Jacob Titus.

— David Biggy

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