Imagine being a kid and having a senior government official come to your school to share the joy of reading and storytelling. Then imagine the excitement when an actual Dr. Seuss character enters the room!
That’s what happened when Arthur “Butch” Blazer, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, recently spoke to more than 300 students at James K. Polk Elementary School in Alexandria, Va. about the importance of trees and forests.
“Why are trees important?” the former State Forester of New Mexico asked the students. “Do you know where you get your drinking water every day? Much of that water comes from the forest”.
“It’s so important that we take care of our forests. Remember it’s important that we keep our forests healthy so we have good water to drink. If our forests go away, where will we find our water?”
Blazer proceeded to share with the curious young faces the story about The Lorax, which revolves on the Dr. Seuss character’s quest to reinvigorate a forest filled with trees and their reliant ecosystems.
Standing between the students and a drop-down screen that displayed accompanying images, Blazer, who was donning his cowboy hat, began reading The Lorax. The lights were dimmed and the school’s multipurpose room was quiet with the occasional bursts of giggles by students, whose grade ranges included kindergarten, fourth and fifth grades. The kindergarteners proudly wore paper hats made to mimic Dr. Seuss’ signature Cat in the Hat.
After Blazer’s storytelling came to an end, the lights came on and the students’ applause grew thunderous when their school principal surprised them with another guest — The Lorax himself, who entered the room to greet the excited students!
This event coincides with the release of Universal Pictures’ film, The Lorax. Blazer’s reading of the story also served as a component of the National Education Association’s Read Across America Day, an annual event sponsored by the association to promote literacy among children in the United States. The character, The Lorax, has additionally been part of a major public service campaign, jointly led by the Forest Service and the Ad Council since 2009, that encourages kids to Discover the Forest.
“I hope that the students learn to share our love for the environment and our love for trees,” said Heidi McAllister, assistant director of the Forest Service’s Conservation Education program in Washington, D.C., who attended the school’s special event. “I hope that they establish a relationship with the environment that will grow over time and help sustain them throughout their lives.”